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Disseminated intravascular coagulation

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Disseminated intravascular coagulation or describes the widespread clotting of blood throughout the body's blood vessels.  The process disrupts normal clotting and ironically causes bleeding from small wounds in the skin (such as those from a blood sample), the digestive tract, the respiratory tract and surgical sites.  The clotting can also cause damage to organs from lack of blood flow, particularly the kidneys .  It is the most common cause of multiple organ failure in the elderly, and is common in critically ill patients of any age.

About half of all DIC cases are a complication of pregnancy.  About one-third are the result of cancer.  Other causes are severe trauma and infection.

The only way to treat DIC is to treat the underlying cause as anti-coagulants will merely result in additional bleeding.  

The development of DIC is usually very serious and indicates the patient is close to death.  Patients who develop it are rarely successfully treated. 

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