What Causes an Elevation of D-Dimer?

High levels of D-dimer often indicate blood clotting problems, such as deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. However, in some instances high levels of D-dimer are just a result of the body healing itself, WebMD states.

Doctors order a D-dimer test for a patient who may have blood clotting issues, states WebMD. The test measures the substance that the body releases after a blood clot breaks up, referred to as D-dimer. Low levels of D-dimer mean a patient probably does not have blood clotting issues. An elevated level of D-dimer has a few causes. Serious blood clotting problems, such as pulmonary embolism, which is life threatening, can result in high levels of D-dimer. A patient with high D-dimer levels may also have disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), another serious condition that prevents blood from clotting as it should.

Unchecked pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis and DIC can kill patients, notes WebMD. However, an elevated D-dimer level doesn’t necessarily mean that a patient is at serious risk. Pregnant women, people with rheumatoid arthritis, those taking estrogen therapy and patients who have had recent surgery may have higher levels of D-dimer than usual. While a level of D-dimer higher than 250 micrograms per liter may be alarming, patients should be aware that D-dimer elevations are sometimes only temporary.