Screening tests of disseminated intravascular coagulation: guidelines for rapid and specific laboratory diagnosis

Crit Care Med. 2000 Jun;28(6):1777-80. doi: 10.1097/00003246-200006000-00013.


Objective: To study the clinician's ordering pattern in the diagnosis of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) and to analyze the utility of selected tests by assessing their sensitivity, specificity, and overall efficiency.

Design: Retrospective, nonrandomized, clinical study.

Setting: University hospital intensive care units.

Patients: A total of 82 inpatients treated in our intensive care units were identified from the hospital computer system as having been tested for DIC in a 3-month period.

Intervention: Screening tests for DIC were ordered for the suspected patients.

Measurements and main results: Prothrombin time (PT), partial thromboplastin time (PTT), fibrinogen/fibrin degradation products (FDP), and fibrinogen were used most frequently as DIC diagnostic tests. The FDP and D-dimer combination (n = 39) had the highest diagnostic efficiency of 95%, with sensitivity being 91% and specificity 94%. This is followed by FDP (n = 71), efficiency 87%, sensitivity 100%, and specificity 67%; PT/PTT and FDP combination (n = 71), efficiency 86%, sensitivity 91%, and specificity 71%; and D-dimer (n = 44), efficiency 80%, sensitivity 91%, and specificity 68%. The rest of the commonly used tests, such as PT, PTT, thrombin time, platelet count, fibrinogen, and the presence of schistocytes (n = 80), had individually either low specificity or low sensitivity and, therefore, low efficiency scores (57%, 57%, 70%, 67%, 65%, and 51%, respectively).

Conclusions: The D-dimer and FDP tests offered the best test panel in the diagnosis of DIC. We propose the use of D-dimer, FDP, and antithrombin as the DIC diagnostic test panel, with D-dimer and FDP providing a rapid and specific diagnosis, antithrombin providing insight to the severity and prognosis, and FDP (rapid and less expensive than D-dimer) to follow-up the progress of the condition once the diagnosis is established.

MeSH terms

  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / blood*
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / diagnosis*
  • Hematologic Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors