Principles of care for the diagnosis and treatment of von Willebrand disease

Haematologica. 2013 May;98(5):667-74. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2012.077263.


Von Willebrand disease is a common autosomal inherited bleeding disorder caused by quantitative or qualitative defects of von Willebrand factor, a multi-adhesive protein that binds platelets to exposed subendothelium and carries factor VIII in circulation. As a result of von Willebrand factor deficiency or abnormality, levels of factor VIII, the protein deficient in hemophilia A, may be variably reduced. Clinical manifestations are mainly represented by mucous membrane and of soft tissue bleeding. Their severity is variable depending on the degree of von Willebrand factor and factor VIII reduction. While a clear-cut diagnosis is easy in severe von Willebrand factor reductions, the advantage of pursuing a definite diagnosis in mild or dubious cases should be weighed against the risk of over-medicalization. The aim of treatment is to correct the dual defect of hemostasis caused by the abnormal/reduced von Willebrand factor and the concomitant deficiency of factor VIII. Desmopressin is the treatment of choice for type 1 von Willebrand disease patients with factor VIII and von Willebrand factor levels of 10 U/dL or over who have proved responsive to a test-infusion with the compound. Von Willebrand factor/factor VIII concentrates are needed when desmopressin is ineffective (mainly type 2 and 3 von Willebrand disease).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • von Willebrand Diseases / classification
  • von Willebrand Diseases / diagnosis*
  • von Willebrand Diseases / therapy*