How I treat gastrointestinal bleeding in congenital and acquired von Willebrand disease

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Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is distinctive of severe von Willebrand disease (VWD), generally arising in older patients; in most cases, blood transfusion and hospitalization are required. The presence of arteriovenous malformations is often described when endoscopic examinations are performed. Patients with congenital type 3, 2A, and 2B are those most frequently affected by this symptom, possibly due to the loss of high-molecular-weight multimers of von Willebrand factor (VWF). GI bleeding can also occur in patients affected by acquired von Willebrand syndrome. Endoscopic examination of the GI tract is necessary to exclude ulcers and polyps or cancer as possible causes of GI bleeding. In congenital VWD, prophylaxis with VWF/factor VIII concentrates is generally started after GI-bleeding events, but this therapy is not always successful. Iron supplementation must be prescribed to avoid chronic iron deficiency. Possible rescue therapies (high-dose statins, octreotide, thalidomide, lenalidomide, and tamoxifen) were described in a few case reports and series; however, surgery may be necessary in emergency situations or if medical treatment fails to stop bleeding. In this article, we present several clinical cases that highlight the clinical challenges of these patients and possible strategies for their long-term management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1125-1133
Number of pages9
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Sept 3 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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