von Willebrand's disease and menorrhagia: prevalence, diagnosis, and management

Am J Hematol. 2005 Jul;79(3):220-8. doi: 10.1002/ajh.20372.


The reported prevalence of von Willebrand's disease (vWD) is increased in women with menorrhagia, with current estimates ranging from 5% to 20%. The consistent results of multiple studies suggest testing should be included in the evaluation of patients with menorrhagia, especially in unexplained cases and prior to surgical intervention. Although a cyclic variation in von Willebrand's factor levels has not been confirmed, several studies suggest lower levels during menses and the early follicular phase. Menorrhagia is one of the most common bleeding manifestations of von Willebrand's disease, reported by 60-95% of women afflicted with this bleeding disorder. Menorrhagia is typically severe, often resulting in anemia and interfering with quality of life. Despite the frequency of menorrhagia, there is no consensus on optimal management. Although oral contraceptives are frequently prescribed, there are no studies confirming their efficacy using objective measures of response. Desmopressin was associated with an 80-92% response rate in several uncontrolled studies relying on patient assessment of efficacy. However, a small, randomized trial found no significant reduction in menstrual blood flow compared with placebo. There are anecdotal reports of the successful use of antifibrinolytic agents alone and in combination with other therapies. There are no studies comparing the relative efficacy and safety of the available medical therapies for von Willebrand's disease associated menorrhagia. Until these studies are completed, treatment should be individualized based on von Willebrand's disease subtype, patient age, contraceptive needs, and personal preference.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Management
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menorrhagia / diagnosis
  • Menorrhagia / drug therapy*
  • Menorrhagia / epidemiology
  • Menorrhagia / etiology*
  • Prevalence
  • von Willebrand Diseases / diagnosis
  • von Willebrand Diseases / drug therapy
  • von Willebrand Diseases / epidemiology
  • von Willebrand Diseases / pathology*