How I treat von Willebrand disease

Thromb Res. 2020 Dec:196:618-625. doi: 10.1016/j.thromres.2020.07.051. Epub 2020 Aug 3.


The deficiency or abnormal activity of von Willebrand factor, a multi-adhesive protein which binds platelets to exposed subendothelium and carries factor VIII in circulation, is responsible for von Willebrand disease, the most frequent inherited bleeding disorder. Clinical symptoms are characterized by mucous membrane and soft tissue bleeding, bleeding after surgery and rarely joint and gastrointestinal bleeding. Intriguingly, also factor VIII, the protein deficient in hemophilia A, may be variably reduced because VWF stabilizes it into circulation. Treatment strategies are well designed for patients with levels of VWF activity <30 U/dL, while the diagnosis and the magnitude of risk may be difficult to be assessed accurately for subjects with levels between 30 and 50 U/dL. Three types of the disorder have been identified according to partial (type 1) or severe VWF quantitative deficiency (type 3) while patients who present variable abnormality of VWF structure are categorized as type 2. The aim of treatment is to correct either the abnormal/reduced von Willebrand factor and the associated deficiency of factor VIII, when present. Desmopressin is able to transiently correct the deficiency of FVIII and VWF for up to 8-12 h in a significant proportion of patients with type 1 von Willebrand disease and factor VIII and von Willebrand factor levels ≥10 U/dL. When desmopressin is not usual (mainly in patients with type 2 and 3 VWD) or correction is required cannot be used for an extended time (e.g., major surgery), von Willebrand factor-containing concentrates, with or without FVIII, must be used.

Keywords: Desmopressin; Factor VIII; Inherited bleeding disorders; VWF concentrates; von Willebrand disease; von Willebrand factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Deamino Arginine Vasopressin / therapeutic use
  • Factor VIII
  • Hemophilia A*
  • Hemorrhage
  • Humans
  • von Willebrand Disease, Type 1*
  • von Willebrand Diseases* / diagnosis
  • von Willebrand Diseases* / drug therapy
  • von Willebrand Factor


  • von Willebrand Factor
  • Factor VIII
  • Deamino Arginine Vasopressin