Schlienz may have died from aggressive conditionIf Daniel Schlienz died of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), as his sister said she was told, it probably happened fast, medical experts said.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
If Daniel Schlienz died of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), as his sister said she was told, it probably happened fast, medical experts said.
“When it happens, it’s not something mild, subtle or slow,” said Dr. Don Jenkins, head of the trauma department at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester. “Once it starts, it is pretty quickly fatal in many cases.”
DIC “literally consumes the body’s (blood) platelets,” said Dr. Howard Mell, director of the emergency department at TriPoint Medical Center in suburban Cleveland and spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians.
“It eventually gets to the point where the platelets are so depleted that normal body functions cease,” Mell said. “You bleed out everywhere. Your capillaries start to bleed, your eyes, your nose, your rectum.”
There’s always an underlying cause for DIC, Mell said, but it’s not always discovered. Sudden onset of DIC could be caused by an E. coli infection from eating contaminated beef or an upper respiratory tract infection that leads to pneumonia, Jenkins said. “It’ll happen any time toxins are released into the system from bacteria under the right conditions.”
And it can manifest itself with shocking suddenness.
Mell said he once treated a young woman who came into the emergency room six hours after she started coughing up blood. She was dead of DIC six hours later.
“(She) was a healthy 19-year-old young lady and within hours she had died,” Mell said. “Supposedly until the first cough there was nothing. … We never figured out what caused it. It was like out of a horror movie.”
Once DIC occurs, recovery is rare, Mell said.
“There’s a bunch of things that we try, but all of them are Hail Mary passes,” he said.