Diagnosis of von Willebrand disease

Authors

  • C. A. Lee,

  • C. M. Kessler,

  • D. Varon,

  • U. Martinowitz,

  • M. Heim,

  • A. B. FEDERICI

    1. Angelo Bianchi Bonomi Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center and Institute of Internal Medicine, IRCCS Maggiore Hospital, University of Milan, Italy
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Augusto B. Federici, Via Pace 9, 20122 Milano, Italy. Tel. +39 (2) 55 03 53 56; Fax +39 (2) 55 03 53 47; email: Augusto.Federici@unimi.it.

Abstract

Summary. von Willebrand disease (vWD) is a bleeding disorder caused by quantitative or qualitative defects of von Willebrand factor (vWF). vWF is synthesized by endothelial cells and megakaryocytes and circulates in plasma as a multimeric high molecular weight glycoprotein. vWF plays a major role in the early phases of ostasis by promoting platelet-vessel wall and plateletplatelet interactions under high shear conditions. It is also the carrier of coagulation factor VIII (FVIII) in plasma. A deficiency of vWF results in impairment of both primary and secondary phases of ostasis. Therefore, patients with vWD manifest bleeding symptoms that are typical of defects of primary ostasis (mucocutaneous haemorrhages) but, in case of severe deficiency of vWF, there are also haemarthroses and haematomas, which are typical of those seen with coagulation defects. Several types and subtypes of vWD have been described with a high degree of heterogeneity. The diagnosis is based on measurements of plasma and platelet vWF, the ability of vWF to interact with its platelet receptor and the analysis of the multimeric composition of vWF. Due to the heterogeneity of vWF defects, a correct diagnosis of types and subtypes may be sometimes difficult but is very important for an appropriate treatment of patients with vWD.

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