D-dimer Test

A D-dimer is a blood test that analyses D-dimer, which is a protein fragment that the body makes when a blood clot dissolves in your body. D-dimer is normally undetectable or only detectable at a very low level unless your body is forming and breaking down significant blood clots.

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What is a D-dimer test?

A D-dimer is a blood test that analyses D-dimer, which is a protein fragment that the body makes when a blood clot dissolves in your body. D-dimer is normally undetectable or only detectable at a very low level unless your body is forming and breaking down significant blood clots.

A positive or elevated D-dimer test result might indicate that you have a blood clotting condition, but it does not guarantee that you have one. It cannot reveal what type of clotting condition you may have or where the clot is located in your body.

What is a D-dimer test used for?

A D-dimer test is used to find out if you have a blood clotting disorder. These disorders include:

  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), is a blood clot that's deep inside a vein. These types of clots usually affect the lower part of the legs, but they can also happen in other parts of the body too.

  • Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blockage in an artery in the lungs. This usually happens when a blood clot in another part of the body breaks loose and travels to the lungs. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) clots are a common cause of PE.

  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), is a condition that causes too many blood clots to form. This can form throughout the body, and cause organ damage and other serious complications. The DIC might be caused by traumatic injuries, or certain types of infections, or cancer.

  • Stroke blocks the blood supply to the brain.

 

Why do I need a D-dimer test?

Your healthcare provider may recommend a D-dimer test if you are having any symptoms of a blood clotting condition, which include:

  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

  • Pulmonary embolism (PE).

  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).

  • Stroke.

 

The providers usually perform the D-dimer tests in an emergency room or other hospital setting.

 

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

The DVT usually forms in one of your legs or arms. And not everyone with a DVT will have symptoms, but the symptoms can include:

  • Swelling in your leg or arm, which sometimes happens suddenly.

  • Usually, pain or tenderness in your leg may only happen when standing or walking.

  • Warmth in the area of the leg or an arm that’s swollen or hurting

  • skin that is red or discoloured.

  • If you have veins near the surface of your skin that are larger than normal.

If you’re experiencing any signs and symptoms of DVT and aren't currently in a healthcare setting, call your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

 

Pulmonary embolism (PE)

Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include:

  • The sudden shortness of breath (dyspnea) or fast breathing.

  • If you have sharp chest pain often it happens when you cough or move.

  • Pain in your back.

  • Coughing (sometimes with bloody spit or phlegm).

  • Sweating more than you usually do.

  • Fast heart rate (tachycardia).

  • Feeling dizzy or fainting.

If you have any symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, call or get to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible.

 

Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)

Symptoms of DIC include:

  • Bleeding gums

  • Nausea and/ or vomiting.

  • Severe muscle pain and abdominal pain.

  • Seizures

  • Peeing less than you normally do.

If you have already been diagnosed with DIC, your healthcare provider may recommend you undergo D-dimer tests regularly to make sure your treatment is working well.

 

Stroke

Symptoms of a stroke include:

  • If you have sudden numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body.

  • If you are having sudden confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty comprehending what someone is saying.

  • If you have sudden difficulty seeing in one or both of your eyes.

  • Sudden trouble walking.

  • If you feel sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.

  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

If you or someone else is experiencing these signs and symptoms of a stroke, call or get to the nearest hospital as soon as possible.

 

What’s the normal range?

Less than 500 ng/mL FEU. 

Who performs a D-dimer test?

A healthcare provider known as a phlebotomist usually performs the blood draw, including those for a D-dimer test, but any healthcare provider trained in drawing blood can perform this task. Your healthcare provider then sends the blood samples to a lab where a medical laboratory scientist prepares the samples and performs the tests on machines known as analysers.

 

How do I prepare for a D-dimer test?

You don't need to do anything special to prepare for a D-dimer test.

What should I expect during my D-dimer test?

A D-dimer test is a blood test. You can expect to experience the following during the blood test, or a blood draw:

  • You will sit on a chair or lie down on a medical bed, and a healthcare provider will check your arms for an easily accessible vein. This is checked usually in the inner part of your arm on the other side of the elbow.

  • Once they have located a vein, they will clean with an alcohol swab and disinfect the area.

  • They will then insert a needle into your vein to draw a blood sample. This may feel like a small pinch or an ant bite.

  • After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected in a test tube.

  • Once they have collected enough blood for the test, they’ll remove the needle and hold a cotton ball or gauze on the pricked site to stop the bleeding.

  • They will place a spot band-aid over the site, and your collection process is finished.

The entire process usually takes less than five minutes.

What should I expect after my D-dimer test?

After a healthcare provider has collected the blood sample, they will send it to a laboratory for processing. Once the test results are ready, your healthcare provider will share the results with you. 

 

What are the risks of a D-dimer test?

These blood tests are very common and don’t carry any significant risks. You may have a  slight pain like an ant bite when the needle gets inserted, and a small bruise may develop there.

What is the cost of a D-dimer test?

What do the results of a D-dimer test mean?

The blood test reports, including D-dimer test reports, usually provide the following information:

  • The name of the blood test or what was analysed in your blood

  • The number or the measurement of your blood test result.

  • The normal measurement range for that test.

  • The information that indicates if your result is normal or abnormal, high or low, low/positive or negative.

 

What is a normal D-dimer test result?

There are several methods for testing the level of D-dimer in your blood, so there’s no one universal “normal” range. The lab results will provide the information indicating if your D-dimer level is normal, low or high, or positive or negative.

 

If the lab results reveal that you have low, negative, or normal D-dimer levels in your blood, it means you most likely don’t have a clotting disorder.

 

If you have been diagnosed with disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) and are  undergoing treatment, a normal or low level of D-dimer in your blood most likely means that your treatment is working well.

 

What does a high D-dimer test result mean?

If your result reveals that you have higher than the normal levels of D-dimer in your blood, it may mean that you have a blood clotting condition. A D-dimer test cannot determine the type of blood clotting condition you may have or where the blood clot is in your body.

 

If you’ve been diagnosed with disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) and are undergoing treatment, a high value of D-dimer in the blood most likely means that the treatment is not working well.

It is possible to have high D-dimer levels without having a blood clotting condition. In other conditions and situations that can cause higher than the normal levels of D-dimer include:

  • Pregnancy.

  • Heart disease.

  • Recent surgery.

  • Trauma.

  • Infection.

 

D-dimer values also tend to increase in elderly people, and false positive results may occur if you have rheumatoid arthritis. If your result shows abnormal D-dimer levels, your healthcare provider will recommend having you undergo additional blood tests and/or imaging tests to determine a diagnosis.

 

When should I know the results of my D-dimer test?

In most of the cases, the healthcare providers recommend the D-dimer tests in emergency situations since the blood clots may be life-threatening. If this scenario applies to you also, your provider will likely have the results back within hours.

If you’ve had a D-dimer test to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment plan for a blood clotting condition, you are likely to have the results back within the same day.

 

What are the next steps?

If the D-dimer test results were abnormal, your healthcare provider may have recommended undergoing one or more imaging tests to find out if you have a blood clotting condition and where the blood clot(s) may be. Imaging tests include:

  • Doppler ultrasound: These imaging tests use the sound waves to create images of your veins.

  • Computed tomography (CT) angiography:  For this imaging test, a healthcare provider injects a special dye into one of the veins. This helps your blood vessels show up on a special type of X-ray machine.

Lung ventilation-perfusion (V/Q) scan: This lung VQ scan is an imaging test that uses a ventilation (V) scan to analyse the airflow in your lungs and perfusion (Q) scan to see where blood flows into your lungs. Both tests use small and safe amounts of radioactive substances that help a scanning machine to see how well air and blood move through your lungs.

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