• type 1 von Willebrand disease;
  • von Willebrand factor levels;
  • ABO blood group;
  • bleeding history;
  • reclassification

This clinical retrospective study investigated the difficulties in diagnosing type 1 von Willebrand disease (VWD). A total of 246 patients previously diagnosed with type 1 VWD were reclassified into ‘possible’ type 1 VWD (patients with low levels of VWF adjusted for the blood group and either a significant bleeding history or family history) and ‘definite’ type 1 VWD, requiring low levels of von Willebrand factor (VWF), a bleeding history and inheritance. On reclassification, only 144/246 (59%) patients had low VWF levels adjusted for blood group, 88/246 (36%) patients met all the criteria for ‘definite’ type 1 VWD and 51/246 (21%) patients were ‘possible’ type 1 VWD. A significant proportion of patients, 102/246 (42%), remained an indeterminate group with blood type O, VWF levels between 35 and 50 U/dl and personal and/or family bleeding history. This subgroup might require reclassification as ‘not VWD’. However, a similar bleeding tendency was found in two matched groups of patients of blood groups O and non-O and VWF levels between 35 and 50 U/dl. These results suggest that the use of ABO adjusted ranges for VWF levels might not be essential for diagnosis, because bleeding symptoms may depend on the VWF level regardless of the ABO type. Of the diagnostic criteria, the bleeding history was of prime importance in the clinical decision to diagnose and treat type 1 VWD. These observations could help in the reconsideration of how the criteria for diagnosing type 1 VWD could be adjusted in order to maximize their clinical relevance.