Laboratory tests used to help diagnose von Willebrand disease: An update

Emmanuel J Favaloro, Leonardo Pasalic, Jennifer Curnow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


von Willebrand disease (VWD) is due to quantitative deficiencies and/or qualitative defects in von Willebrand factor (VWF), and is reportedly the most common inherited bleeding disorder. However, diagnosis of VWD is problematic, and is subject to over-, under-, and misdiagnosis. This is due to many factors, including limitations in current test procedures and an over-reliance on these imperfect test systems for clinical diagnosis. VWF is a complex plasma protein with multiple functions, but essentially acts to assist in the formation of a platelet thrombus to stop blood loss from sites of injury. VWF achieves this by several activities, including binding to platelets [primarily through the glycoprotein Ib (GPIb) receptor], binding to subendothelial matrix components (primarily collagen), and binding to factor VIII (FVIII), thus protecting FVIII from degradation and enabling its delivery to sites of vascular injury. Laboratory assessment of VWD entails performance of a battery of tests, some of which aim to mimic in vivo VWF activity. VWD is classified into six separate types, based on quantitative deficiencies [types 1 (partial deficiency) and 3 (total deficiency)] of VWF, or qualitative defects (type 2 VWD), which comprise four 'subtypes'. The current report briefly overviews the diagnosis of VWD, describing the currently available armamentarium of laboratory tests, as well as emerging options for laboratory-assisted diagnostics. Although some methodologies suffer from significant limitations that challenge the accurate diagnosis of VWD, newer methodologies and specific approaches can improve detection of this common bleeding disorder, and the appropriate characterisation and typing of patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-318
Number of pages16
Issue number4
Early online date28 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


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