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Am J Hematol. 2012 May;87 Suppl 1:S4-11. doi: 10.1002/ajh.23142. Epub 2012 Mar 3.

von Willebrand disease: clinical and laboratory lessons learned from the large von Willebrand disease studies.

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Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6.


During the past 25 years, our knowledge concerning the pathogenesis, diagnostic strategies, and treatment of von Willebrand disease (VWD) has increased significantly. Following the immunological differentiation of factor VIII (FVIII) and von Willebrand factor (VWF) in the 1970s and the cloning of the FVIII and VWF genes in the mid-1980s, substantial progress has been made in our understanding of this, the most common inherited bleeding disorder. We now recognize that VWD represents a range of genetic diseases all with the clinical endpoint of increased mucocutaneous bleeding. The molecular pathology of Type 2 and 3 VWD is now comprehensively documented and involves rare sequence variants at the VWF locus. In contrast, the genetic causation of Type 1 disease remains incompletely defined and in many cases appears to involve genetic determinants in addition to or instead of VWF. The diagnostic triad of a personal history of excessive mucocutaneous bleeding, laboratory tests for VWF that are consistent with VWD, and a family history of the condition remain the keystone to VWD identification. In the laboratory, measurement of VWF antigen and function continue to be the most important diagnostic studies, and while our understanding of the molecular genetic pathology of VWD has advanced considerably in the past decade, genetic testing as a component of diagnosis is limited to certain distinct subtypes of the disorder. Treatment of VWD has been relatively unchanged for the past decade and continues to involve either stimulation of the release of intrinsic VWF with desmopressin or the infusion of VWF concentrates.

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