Disseminated intravascular coagulation in liver cirrhosis: Fact or fiction?

Ziv Ben-Ari*, Elsvir Osman, Ronald A. Hutton, Andrew K. Burroughs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Cirrhosis is commonly associated with haemostatic dysfunction. The similarities of laboratory tests of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) to those found in cirrhosis has led to the belief that DIC is a feature of the haemostatic failure of cirrhosis. METHODS: The aim of this study was to determine whether DIC is part of the coagulopathy of cirrhosis by applying quantitative tests for prothrombin fragment 1 + 2, antithrombin III, thrombin-antithrombin complex, and specific fibrinogen degradation products levels (XDP), as well as the thrombelastograph for detecting the Clot Lysis Index. RESULTS: Fifty-two stable cirrhotic patients (33 men, 19 women; mean age, 58.8 yr; range, 24-72 yr) with differing etiologies were studied. On tests of thrombin generation: thrombin-antithrombin complexes, fibrin(ogen) degradation products, and prothrombin fragments 1 + 2 were not found to be significantly different from an age- and gender-matched control group (p = 0.18, 0.3, and 0.67, respectively), whereas albumin, Factor V, fibrinogen, antithrombin III, and α2-antiplasmin were all significantly low (p = 0.0004, 0.002, 0.06, 0.004, and 0.004, respectively), reflecting reduced synthetic function and correlation in ascitic and nonascitic patients. There was no correlation between impaired synthesis (antithrombin III and α2-antiplasmin) and indices of DIC (prothrombin fragment 1 + 2, thrombin-antithrombin complexes, and XDP) (p = not significant). The percentage of patients with high prothrombin fragments 1 + 2 and thrombin antithrombin levels in each child grade group was similar. Thrombin time was significantly elevated in the cirrhotic group (a manifestation of low fibrinogen levels). The Clot Lysis Index as measured by thrombelastography was significantly abnormal, indicating mild hyperfibrinolysis. CONCLUSION: We conclude that DIC is not part of the coagulopathy in stable liver cirrhosis without recent complications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2977-2982
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes


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