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von Willebrand’s Disease

December 3, 2004

• vWF
– Structure
– Location
– Function
• vWD
– History
– Clinical manifestations
– Categories
– Diagnosis
– Treatment

• Family of bleeding disorders

• Caused by a deficiency or an abnormality of von Willebrand Factor

• VWF gene : short arm of chromosome 12

– VWF gene is expressed in endothelial cells and megakaryocytes
• vWF is produced as a propeptide which is extensively modified to
produce mature vWF
– Two vWF monomers bind through disulfide bonds to form dimers
– Multiple dimers combine to form vWF multimers
vWF Production

• Vascular endothelial cells • Release stimuli (EC)

• Megakaryocytes – Thrombin
• Most vWF is secreted – Histamine
• Some vWF is stored – Fibrin
– Weibel-Palade bodies in – C5b-9 (complement
endothelial cells membrane attack complex)
– Alpha granules of platelets • Release stimuli (platelets)
• Constitutive and stimulus- – Thrombin
induced pathways
– Collagen
vWF Function

• Adhesion
– Mediates the adhesion of
platelets to sites of vascular
injury (subendothelium)
• Links exposed collagen
to platelets
– Mediates platelet to platelet
• Binds GPIb and GPIIb-
IIIa on activated
• Stabilizes the
hemostatic plug against
shear forces
vW Factor Functions in Hemostasis

• Carrier protein for Factor VIII (FVIII)

– Protects FVIII from proteolytic degradation
– Localizes FVIII to the site of vascular injury
– Hemophilia A: absence of FVIII
vWD History

• 1931: Erik von Willebrand

described novel bleeding
– Hereditary
– Prolonged BT and normal
platelet count
– Mucosal bleeding
– Both sexes affected • 1950s: Prolonged BT associated
with reduced FVIII
• 1970s: Discovery of vWF
• 1980s: vWF gene cloned

• Most frequent inherited bleeding disorder

– Estimated that 1% of the population has vWD
– Very wide range of clinical manifestations
– Clinically significant vWD : 125 persons per million population
– Severe disease is found in approximately 0.5-5 persons per million
• Autosomal inheritance pattern
– Males and females are affected equally
vWD Classification

• Disease is due to either a quantitative deficiency of vWF or to

functional deficiencies of vWF
– Due to vWF role as carrier protein for FVIII, inadequate amount of
vWF or improperly functioning vWF can lead to a resultant
decrease in the available amount of FVIII
vWD Classification

• 3 major subclasses
– Type I: Partial quantitative deficiency of vWF
• Mild-moderate disease
• 70%
– Type II: Qualitative deficiency of vWF
• Mild to moderate disease
• 25%
– Type III: Total or near total deficiency of vWF
• Severe disease
• 5%
• Additional subclass
– Acquired vWD
Clinical Manifestations

• Most with the disease have few • Types II and III: Bleeding
or no symptoms episodes may be severe and
• For most with symptoms, it is a potentially life threatening
mild manageable bleeding • Disease may be more
disorder with clinically severe pronounced in females because
hemorrhage only with trauma of menorrhagia
or surgery • Bleeding often exacerbated by
the ingestion of aspirin
• Severity of symptoms tends to
decrease with age due to
increasing amounts of vWF
Clinical Manifestations

• Epistaxis 60%
• Easy bruising / hematomas 40%
• Menorrhagia 35%
• Gingival bleeding 35%
• GI bleeding 10%
• Dental extractions 50%
• Trauma/wounds 35%
• Post-partum 25%
• Post-operative 20%
vWD Type I

• Mild to moderate disease

• Mild quantitative deficiency of vWF
– vWF is functionally normal
• Usually autosomal dominant
– Penetrance may vary dramatically in a single family
vWD Type 2

• Usually autosomal dominant • Type 2C

• – Recessive
Type 2A
– High molecular weight vWF
– Lack high and intermediate multimers is reduced
molecular weight multimers – Individual multimers are
• Type 2B qualitatively abnormal
– Multimers bind platelets • Type 2M
excessively – Decreased vWF activity
– vWF antigen, FVIII, and
• Increased clearance of multimer analysis are found to
platelets from the be within reference range
circulation • Type 2N
– Lack high molecular weight – Markedly decreased affinity of
multimers vWF for FVIII
• Results in FVIII levels
reduced to usually around
5% of the reference range.
vWD Type III

• Recessive disorder
• vWF protein is virtually undetectable
– Absence of vWF causes a secondary deficiency of FVIII and a
subsequent severe combined defect in blood clotting and platelet
Acquired vWD

• First described in 1970's

• fewer than 300 cases reported
• Usually encountered in adults with no personal or family bleeding
• Laboratory work-up most consistent with Type II vWD
• Mechanisms
– Autoantibodies to vWF
– Absorption of HMW vWF multimers to tumors and activated cells
– Increased proteolysis of vWF
– Defective synthesis and release of vWF from cellular compartments
• Myeloproliferative disorders, lymphoproliferative disorders,
monoclonal gammopathies, CVD, and following certain infections
vWD Screening

• PT
• aPTT
• (Bleeding time)
vWD: aPTT and PT

• aPTT
– Mildly prolonged in approximately 50% of patients with vWD
• Normal PTT does not rule out vWD
– Prolongation is secondary to low levels of FVIII
• PT
– Usually within reference ranges
• Prolongations of both the PT and the aPTT signal a problem with
acquisition of a proper specimen or a disorder other than or in addition
to vWD
vWD and Bleeding Time

• Historically, bleeding time is a test used to help diagnose vWD

– Lacks sensitivity and specificity
– Subject to wide variation
– Not currently recommended for making the diagnosis of vWD
vWD Diagnostic Difficulties

• vWF levels vary greatly

– Physiologic stress
– Estrogens
– Vasopressin
– Growth hormone
– Adrenergic stimuli
• vWF levels may be normal intermittently in patients with vWD
– Measurements should be repeated to confirm abnormal results
– Repeating tests at intervals of more than 2 weeks is advisable to
confirm or definitively exclude the diagnosis, optimally at a time
remote from hemorrhagic events, pregnancy, infections, and
strenuous exercise
• vWF levels vary with blood type
vWD Diagnosis

• Ristocetin
– Good for evaluating vWF function,
– Results are difficult to standardize
– Method
• Induces vWF binding to GP1b on platelets
• Ristocetin co-factor activity: measures agglutination of
metabolically inactive platelets
• RIPA: metabolically active platelets
• Aggregometer is used to measure the rate of aggregation
• vWF Antigen
– Quantitative immunoassay or an ELISA using an antibody to vWF
• Discrepancy between the vWF:Ag value and RCoF activity suggests a
qualitative defect
– Should be further investigated by characterization of the vWF
multimeric distribution
Additional Assays

• Multimer analysis
• PFA-100 closure time
– Screens platelet function in
whole blood
– Prolonged in vWD, except
Type 2N
• FVIII activity assay
vWD Treatment

• Cryoprecipitate
• FVIII concentrate

• Treatment of choice for vWD type I

– Synthetic analogue of the antidiuretic hormone vasopressin
– Maximal rise of vWF and FVIII is observed in 30-60 minutes
– Typical maximal rise is 2- to 4-fold for vWF and 3- to 6-fold for FVIII
– Hemostatic levels of both factors are usually maintained for at
least 6 hours
– Effective for some forms of Type 2 vWD
• May cause thrombocytopenia in Type 2b
– Ineffective for vWD Type 3
Factor VIII Concentrates

• Alphanate and Humate P

• Concentrates are purified to reduce the risk of blood-borne disease
• Contain a near-normal complement of high molecular weight vWF
vWD Treatment

• Platelet transfusions
– May be helpful with vWD refractory to other therapies
• Cryoprecipitate
– Fraction of human plasma
– Contains both FVIII and vWF
– Medical and Scientific Advisory council of the National Hemophilia
Foundation no longer recommends this treatment method due to
its associated risks of infection
– An additional drawback of fresh frozen plasma is the large infusion
volume required

• Castaman G, et al. Haematologica, 88(01):January 2003

• Harmening, Denise. Clinical Hematology and Fundamentals of

Hemostasis. 1997.