The presence of D-dimers in plasma or whole blood indicates that fibrin has been formed and degraded (fibrinolysis). Plasmin can also degrade intact fibrinogen, generating fibrinogen degradation products that are detected in fibrin/fibrinogen degradation products (FDP) assays.
D-dimers and FDP can become elevated whenever the coagulation and fibrinolytic systems are activated. The presence of D-dimer confirms that both thrombin and plasmin have been generated, since it can only be produced as the result of the plasmin degradation of fibrin. D-dimer is a sensitive, but non-specific marker of fibrin formation and fibrinolysis that occurs with the formation of blood clots.
The D-dimer test can be useful in the diagnosis of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE), two forms of venous thromboembolism (VTE). When the test is being used for this purpose, it is important that the D-dimer method has been validated by medical literature and D-dimer levels are accurately measured and accurately reported because of the serious nature of this clinical decision. If the test is positive in a patient suspected to have DVT or PE, clinicians proceed with further diagnostic tests. If the test is negative, depending on the clinical situation and the sensitivity of the D-dimer assay, DVT or PE is considered unlikely and further diagnostic tests for DVT or PE might not be pursued.
D-dimer is also a sensitive, but non-specific diagnostic test for disseminated intravascular coagulation, and an indicator of increased risk of future myocardial infarction in patients evaluated for chest pain.