According to a story from the National Hemophilia Foundation, a collaborative team of researchers from the U.S. and Sweden recently announced the results of a study the indicated that a treatment regimen that included prophylaxis could reduce the frequency of hospital visits for patients with von Willebrand disease. This data could suggest that prophylaxis should have a greater role in treatment.
Von Willebrand disease (vWD) is a blood clotting disorder, and is the most common type that affect people. Although the disorder is typically inherited, it can also be acquired as a complication of other medical problems. It is caused by a deficiency in von Willebrand factor, which is essential for blood platelets to stick to one another and form clots. The type 1 variant is generally mild and may not cause any symptoms. Type 2 causes more significant problems. Interestingly, blood type has a significant influence on the severity and presentation of symptoms, which include frequent nosebleeds, easy bruising, and bleeding from the gums. In the most severe type 3, internal bleeding, such as in the joints, can occur. Treatments to stimulate the release of von Willebrand factor are a common approach. To learn more about von Willebrand disease, click here.
The study found that vWD patients were admitted to the hospital around 2.3 times as often as an unaffected control group. The reasons for admittance were typically nosebleeds, bleeding in the digestive tract, and heavier than normal menstrual bleeds. Prophylaxis may sound like an expensive new drug or describe a specific and complex procedure, but the term actually refers to preventative medicine or healthcare. Preventative medicine involves steps or precautions taken in order to avoid disease or medical event and stop it from occurring. It relies on anticipating potential circumstances that could cause disease.
Prophylaxis for vWD could involve avoiding injury that could cause significant bleeding and using medication prior to a medical procedure such as surgery in order to regulate it. In a sample of 122 bleeding events that required a hospital visit, 75 of them occurred in patients that were not using a prophylactic regimen and 47 happened after the beginning of prophylaxis. This data indicates that preventative measures could play a major role in reducing hospital visits.
The authors did cite some limitations, such as a lack of data accounting for other variables, taking into account differences in vWD subtype, or compensating for potential biases. Regardless, preventative healthcare is often the first step to preventing illness or medical emergencies, and it makes sense for the practice to benefit patients with vWD.