Type 3 von Willebrand Disease (VWD) is a rare and severe form of VWD characterized by complete absence of von Willebrand factor (VWF). Patients with type 3 VWD typically present with moderate to severe mucocutaneous bleeding as well as muscle hematomas and hemarthroses. While inheritance has classically been considered autosomal recessive, there is increasing evidence for co-dominant inheritance, with heterozygous carriers affected with low VWF levels.

We sought to explore the bleeding phenotype in type 3 index cases (IC) and family members (FM) enrolled in the Zimmerman Program study using the ISTH bleeding assessment tool (ISTH-BAT), and to correlate baseline bleeding score (ISTH BS) and sequence variant (SV) location as well as analyze prospective bleeding diatheses over time using an interim bleeding score (iBAT).

Analysis included type 3 VWD index cases (IC), type 3 FM, type 1 affected family members (AFM) and healthy controls (HC). Clinical laboratory phenotyping was performed at BloodCenter of Wisconsin and included FVIII, VWF:Ag, VWF:RCo, VWFpp, VWF:CB3 and multimer analysis. Genotyping involved full-length VWF sequencing, array comparative genomic hybridization to detect deletions and Fabric Genomics Opal software to determine pathological variants. Bleeding symptoms were quantified using the ISTH-BAT bleeding score where baseline scores (ISTH BS) included entire history at time of enrollment and interim bleeding scores (iBAT) that represented bleeding occurring since the initial ISTH BS was obtained. Type 3 obligate carriers (OC) were defined as either having offspring with type 3 VWD or being an offspring of an individual with type 3 VWD. Type 1 AFM cohort included subjects with type 1/low VWF who were related to a type 1 IC.

The type 3 families consisted of 45 unrelated type 3 IC, 56 OC with type 1/low VWF (Type 3 OC), 23 normal unaffected OC, and 8 unaffected family members (UFM). Clinical phenotyping and study entry ISTH BS are detailed in Table 1. Type 3 OC with type 1/low VWF (n=56) had mean VWF:Ag and VWF:RCo lab values which were not different from type 1/low VWF AFM (n=483) however both FVIII (68 vs 56, p<0.001) and ISTH BS (1 vs 3, p<0.0001)were both significantly different. OC without evidence of VWD (n=23) had mean VWF:Ag (79) and FVIII (122) that was significantly different (p<0.01) from healthy controls, however there was no difference in ISTH BS.

The median ISTH BS in the type 3 IC was 15, with no difference between males and females. Adults had a median ISTH BS of 18 that was significantly increased (p<0.0005) compared to a score of 11 in pediatric subjects (<18). Only 1 type 3 IC did not have an abnormal BS which was an 8 year old female.

No difference in ISTH BS was observed according to number of SV or between those with or without null alleles. There was also no difference in ISTH BS (13) of IC with SV in the propeptide region compared to SV in other regions of VWF (15).

The highest median baseline subscores reported were hemarthorsis (3), followed by nose bleeds (2), bruising (2), and oral cavity bleeding (2) and bleeding from minor wounds (1). 17 type 3 IC had at least one follow-up visit where median total iBAT score was 11 with most bleeding due to nosebleeds, bruising, bleeding from minor wounds and oral cavity bleeding (iBAT subscores=1).

Prospective bleeding was analyzed in 12 adult type 3 IC using a baseline ISTH BS cutoff of 10 to evaluate if bleeding score would predict future bleeding. 10 subjects had ISTH BS >10 (mean age 33, BS 22) and 2 had BS<10 (mean age 33, BS 10). Those with a baseline ISTH BS >10 had a median iBAT of 13 compared to those with ISTH BS<10 with an iBAT of 6, however this was not significantly different (p=0.06) most likely due to the small number of subjects.

While type 3 carriers may have low VWF levels, their bleeding is mild compared to type 1 affected family members, and not significantly different from OC with normal levels. There is a difference in type 3 index case bleeding subscores from baseline study entry compared to interim bleeding most likely reflecting the effect of treatment. In this small cohort of prospective bleeding data, the baseline bleeding score did not seem to predict future bleeding as measured by the interim bleeding score. Continued prospective studies of these patients should provide valuable insight into the variability and changes in bleeding in type 3 VWD families.


Montgomery:BCW: Patents & Royalties: GPIbM assay patent to the BloodCenter of Wisconsin.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.