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Circulation. 2004 Feb 17;109(6):740-4.

Patients with type 3 severe von Willebrand disease are not protected against atherosclerosis: results from a multicenter study in 47 patients.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.



The results of a number of studies in pigs and mice suggest that absence of von Willebrand factor (vWF) protects against the development of atherosclerosis. We studied whether patients with a complete deficiency of vWF (type 3 von Willebrand disease [vWD]) develop fewer atherosclerotic vessel wall changes than healthy controls.


This study included 47 individuals with type 3 vWD and 84 healthy controls. Early atherosclerotic changes were assessed by measuring the thickness of the intima-media in the carotid and femoral arteries by B-mode ultrasonography. Advanced atherosclerotic changes were quantified by summing the maximal thickness of atherosclerotic plaques in the carotid and femoral arteries and were expressed as a plaque score. Established risk factors were determined to adjust for possible differences between the groups. We found no substantial difference in intima-media thickness between vWD patients and controls (adjusted difference for carotid artery 0.007 mm, 95% CI -0.022 to 0.036 mm; femoral artery 0.069 mm, 95% CI -0.056 to 0.19 mm). Similar proportions of patients and controls had atherosclerotic plaques (19% and 17%, respectively). No difference was found in the plaque score between groups (adjusted difference -0.22 mm, 95% CI -0.69 to 0.26). Among vWD patients, we found no effect of treatment with vWF concentrates on intima-media thickness or plaque score.


The results of this study indicate that vWF does not play a substantial role in human atherogenesis.

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