Replacement Therapy for Von Willebrand's Disease

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Replacement Therapy for Von Willebrand's Disease

Topic Overview

Replacement therapy is a treatment that replaces something that's missing or not working well in your body. People with von Willebrand's disease don't have von Willebrand factor, or it doesn't work well enough to help clot their blood. So shots (injections) of plasma and clotting factor VIII plus von Willebrand factor can be used as replacement therapy.

Replacement therapy injections (also called infusions) may be used with people who:

  • Do not respond to desmopressin.
  • Cannot tolerate desmopressin.
  • Have severe type 2 or type 3 von Willebrand's disease.
  • Have severe bleeding, from an injury or an unknown cause.

You may get this medicine in a hospital or take it at home. Patients often learn to inject themselves at home, but a doctor or nurse can give the shots too.

Plasma is usually taken from blood donations. In Canada, donated blood is carefully screened. Blood with any viruses, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or viral hepatitis B, is not used. The chance of getting one of these viruses from plasma is extremely low. Plasma is screened and treated for viruses.

Replacement therapy doesn't always work well, because the body may stop the newly introduced von Willebrand factor from working.

Replacement therapy has changed over the years for von Willebrand's disease. Cryoprecipitate, which is a concentrated frozen plasma, is no longer used.

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Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology
Last Revised January 28, 2011

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