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Why Do I Need A D-Dimer Test?

When you arrive at an emergency room, urgent care or even your doctor’s office with swelling, pain or tenderness, warmth, or discoloration in your skin, perhaps redness or red streaks, your medical care providers will most likely order a D-Dimer test.

Dr. Eugene Tanquilut of Vascular Specialists says, “A D-Dimer test is a simple blood test, but it can give us valuable information. If D-Dimer levels are elevated, it could indicate the patient has a blood clotting disorder.”

In the 1970s, researchers discovered the protein fibrinogen, that fragments as part of our bodies’ blood-clotting response. This D-Dimer fragment, technically two D fragments forming a protein dimer, can be detected through the simple blood test. When your body is forming and breaking down larger or more numerous blood clots, you’ll have elevated levels of D-Dimer protein fragments in your blood stream.

In the 1990s, doctors began using this D-Dimer test to diagnose clotting disorders and vascular health conditions. Advances over the last 30 years have increased our understanding of how and why the D-Dimer fragments form in our blood, how we test for them, and what their presence means for our vascular health.

Because D-Dimer tends to show up in significantly raised levels when our bodies produce and dissolve significant clots, a D-Dimer test can help indicate conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), stroke, pulmonary embolism (PE) or disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). A D-dimer test cannot confirm any particular disorder or the location within the body of any clotting; it only indicates that some kind of unusual blood clotting exists in the patient.

A D-Dimer test won’t be terribly useful in patients where clotting is expected, such as pregnant patients, patients with heart disease, or patients who have recently undergone surgery or had a infection. While significant progress has been made in understanding how the D-Dimer fragment forms, different ways of marking and measuring the D-dimer in a blood sample can produce different kinds of results.

The D-Dimer test remains a dependable and common test because it is an easy and quick blood-test and because it can indicate or exclude some serious conditions early on. Because the test is so common, variable ways of testing have a strong clinical history to help doctors make sense of the seemingly broad results.

In short, the presence of evaluated D-Dimer indicates blood-clotting that requires an explanation. The test can tell us that we need to look closer for reasons for the unwanted clotting. Dr. Tanquilut says, “When your D-Dimer test comes back with elevated levels, we’ll perform other diagnostic tests to determine the cause, location and severity of your clotting. We may perform a Doppler ultrasound, a CT angiography or other imaging tests to understand how to treat your condition as quickly as possible to ensure you recover fully and quickly.”

Do you have questions about D-Dimer tests or blood-clotting disorders? Just call our office and we’ll be happy to help!

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