A D-dimer test is a blood test usually used to help check for or monitor blood clotting problems. A positive test means the D-dimer level in your body is higher than normal and suggests you might have blood clots.
What is being tested?
This test measures the amount of D-dimer, which is normally undetectable, in your blood. Blood clots form whenever a blood vessel is damaged, whether that’s by an injury or by atherosclerosis, or when blood flow is restricted, such as by a vessel being compressed for a long time. When you have an injury, your body creates a blot clot to stop blood from leaking out of your blood vessels. D-dimer is a type of protein your body produces to break down the blood clot.
Why would I need this test?
Your doctor advise you to have this test if he or she suspects you have blood clotting problems or wants to rule them out.
These blood clotting problems include:
- deep vein thrombosis (DVT) — clot formation in the veins, usually in the legs
- pulmonary embolism — a blockage in an artery in the lung
- disseminated intravascular coagulation — a condition that prevents your blood clotting normally
- blood coagulation caused by venom of certain species of snake, such as brown snake. Learn more about symptoms caused by snake bites
If you are undergoing treatment for disseminated intravascular coagulation, your doctor may use the D-dimer test to monitor your condition.
Symptoms of a blood clot include:
- Leg swelling (edema)
- Leg pain or tenderness
- Leg redness
If you have these symptoms, call your doctor.
You may also have a D-dimer test if you have symptoms of a blood clot in the lungs, such as:
- Trouble breathing
- Coughing (may cough up blood)
- Fast heartbeat
- Chest pain
If you have these symptoms, call doctor to get emergency help.
People with blood clots often have 1 or more risk factors. These risk factors include:
- Major surgery (for example, hip surgery) or injury (for example, a broken leg)
- Not being able to move for long periods of time (for example, from being in the hospital, or taking long trips by plane or car)
- Pregnancy or recent childbirth
- Certain cancers
- Antiphospholipid syndrome
- Inherited clotting disorder, such as factor V Leiden mutation
You may also need this test to help diagnose and monitor treatment for other conditions.
Why Is the D-Dimer High?
When interpreting an elevated D-dimer test, the doctor also needs to consider the fact that a state of active blood clotting can be explained by many conditions aside from pulmonary embolus or deep vein thrombosis, including conditions of everyday life, as well as medical conditions.
Things associated with high D-dimer levels include:
- Being over 60 years of age
- Cigarette smoking
- Race (black people tend to have higher D-dimer levels)
- Functional immobility
- Recent surgery
- Atrial fibrillation
- Acute coronary syndrome
- GI hemorrhage
- Sickle cell disease
- Disseminated intravascular coagulation
This long list of conditions associated with increased D-dimer levels often makes it difficult to be sure what, specifically, is causing a particular person to have an elevated D-dimer level. Many people suspected of having a pulmonary embolus or deep vein thrombosis will have one or more of the conditions on this list, in which case a high D-dimer level will have a limited diagnostic value.
What other tests might I have along with this test?
If your D-dimer test is positive, you will have other tests. You may have the following imaging tests to look for blood clots:
- Computed tomography (CT) angiography
- Pulmonary angiography
- Ventilation/perfusion scanning
These tests help your doctor to diagnose blood clots in your legs, arms, lungs, or other parts of the body.
How D-dimer test done?
The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm. You don’t need to fast for doing D-dimer test.
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