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Ann Med. 2004;36(1):41-9.

New treatment strategies for disseminated intravascular coagulation based on current understanding of the pathophysiology.

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Department of Internal Medicine/Vascular Medicine, Intensive Care, Laboratory of Experimental Medicine, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


A variety of clinical conditions may cause systemic activation of coagulation, ranging from insignificant laboratory changes to severe disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). DIC consists of a widespread systemic activation of coagulation, resulting in diffuse fibrin deposition in small and midsize vessels. There is compelling evidence from clinical and experimental studies that DIC is involved in the pathogenesis of microvascular dysfunction and contributes to organ failure. In addition, the massive and ongoing activation of coagulation, may result in depletion of platelets and coagulation factors, which may cause bleeding. Recent understanding of important pathogenetic mechanisms that may lead to DIC has resulted in novel preventive and therapeutic approaches to patients with sepsis and a derangement of coagulation. Thrombin generation proceeds via the (extrinsic) tissue factor/factor VIIa route and simultaneously occurring depression of inhibitory mechanisms, such as antithrombin III and the protein C system. Also, impaired fibrin degradation, due to high circulating levels of the fibrinolytic inhibitor plasminogen activator inhibitor, type 1 (PAI-1), contributes to enhanced intravascular fibrin deposition. Interestingly, an extensive cross-talk between activation of inflammation and coagulation exists, where inflammatory mediators (such as cytokines) not only activate the coagulation system, but vice versa activated coagulation proteases and protease inhibitors may modulate inflammation through specific cell receptors. Supportive strategies aimed at the inhibition of coagulation activation may theoretically be justified and have been found beneficial in experimental and initial clinical studies. These strategies comprise inhibition of tissue factor-mediated activation of coagulation or restoration of physiological anticoagulant pathways, for example by means of the administration of recombinant human activated protein C.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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