Disseminated intravascular coagulation in children with cancer: A systematic review

Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2020 Aug;37(5):390-411. doi: 10.1080/08880018.2020.1733717. Epub 2020 Mar 23.


Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) may complicate malignant disease. Numerous studies have investigated this association in adults, however only sparse knowledge exists on DIC in pediatric cancer patients. The objective of this article was to systematically review the literature regarding DIC in pediatric malignancies. PubMed and Embase were searched for relevant articles on January 31, 2020. In total, 6,070 articles were identified out of which 24 articles met inclusion and exclusion criteria. These were included in the qualitative synthesis. The National Institutes of Health's Quality Assessment Tools was used to assess bias in the included articles. The studies were of only moderate quality mainly based on medical charts and demonstrated high heterogeneity, especially as regards to diagnostic criteria. DIC was reported most frequently in patients with acute leukemia, particularly the subtype acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Standard coagulation parameters were used as diagnostic laboratory tests supporting the diagnosis of DIC. Hemorrhage was the predominant clinical manifestation, whereas thromboembolic events and organ failure were reported less frequently. Unfractionated heparin, platelet concentrate and fresh frozen plasma were the most frequently used supportive treatment agents. Hemorrhage accounted for the majority of deaths in children with acute leukemia and solid tumors. In conclusion, only a limited number of studies, being heterogenous and of moderate quality, have investigated DIC in pediatric malignancy. Notably, this entity seems to be complicated mainly by hemorrhage. High quality studies are needed to evaluate diagnosis, clinical manifestations and optimal treatment of DIC in childhood cancers.

Keywords: acute leukemia; disseminated intravascular coagulation; hemorrhage; malignancy; pediatrics; thrombosis.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Blood Coagulation
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / diagnosis
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / drug therapy
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / epidemiology*
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / mortality
  • Hemorrhage / drug therapy
  • Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Heparin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leukemia / epidemiology
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Plasma
  • Thrombosis / drug therapy
  • Thrombosis / epidemiology


  • Anticoagulants
  • Heparin