Haemophilia is an X-linked inherited disorder that affects males and females, though the bleeding risk in girls and women has traditionally been under-recognised. About one third of haemophilia cases occur in individuals where there is no known family history. The gene mutations for rare bleeding disorders are not carried on the X chromosome and are therefore not sex-linked; however, the risk of passing on the condition is greatly increased for consanguineous parents where both parents may carry a copy of the fault in the genetic code which causes the condition. Genetic testing should be offered to every prospective mother, ideally before conception. This should be supported by counselling as the implications for family planning are profound.
Von Willebrand factor (VWF) has an important role in primary and secondary haemostasis. Loss of function or low levels of VWF are associated with spontaneous bleeding causing nosebleeds, heavy periods and bruising as well as jpost-surgical bleeding. Joint bleeding and intracranial haemorrhage can also occur in those with a severe type of VWF. Diagnosis depends on bleeding assessment, family history and measurement of VWF. There are three types of VWD: Types 1 and 3 are caused by low or absent levels of VWD; Type 2 is caused by loss of function. Of these, Type 3 VWD is associated with the most severe bleeding risk but there is wide variation in bleeding phenotype among the other sub-types. The correlation between genetic mutation and bleeding phenotype is weak in VWD; therefore genetic testing is mainly useful for interpreting the risk when planning a family and to allow prenatal diagnosis in severe bleeding disorders.
Genetic testing is essential for prospective parents to make fully informed decisions about having a family and how or whether to proceed with a pregnancy. The rationale for prenatal testing is to determine the bleeding status of the foetus and to inform decisions about managing delivery. Women may choose to terminate a pregnancy to avoid having a child with severe haemophilia. For some couples the option of adoption or not having children may be explored. Options for prenatal diagnostic testing include non-invasive methods, e.g. assessment of free foetal DNA in maternal plasma to determine the sex of a baby from 10 weeks in pregnancy, and invasive methods, e.g. chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis, to determine the inheritance of the genetic mutation. Invasive methods are associated with a very small increased risk of pregnancy loss or early labour, which many couples feel is an unacceptable risk. Advanced techniques such as preimplantation screening also available, but require a huge commitment as this involves an IVF technique.
The symposium focused on issues around surgery, ovulation bleeding, health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and pelvic pain in women with bleeding disorders. Surgery: Young women with congenital bleeding disorders, especially those with severe forms, are more likely to experience gynaecological and obstetric disorders than unaffected women. Surgery may be required to manage heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB), ovulatory bleeding, endometriosis and delivery. Major surgery should be undertaken only in hospitals with a haemophilia centre and 24-hour laboratory capability. Correction of haemostasis, either by desmopressin, coagulation factor or platelet transfusion, is essential for a successful outcome of surgery. Management of pregnancy requires a multidisciplinary approach; the mode of delivery is based on the consensus of gynaecologist and haematologist, and with respect to the patient’s diagnosis. Ovulation bleeding: Women with bleeding disorders are at risk for excessive gynaecological bleeding associated with menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy and delivery. Ovulation bleeding is associated with the rupture of ovarian cysts and causes abdominal pain; complications include haemoperitoneum, fertility problems and ovarian torsion. Management includes hormonal and haemostatic therapies, in combination if necessary, and surgery as a last resort. Current management is based on experience in a relatively small number of cases and more clinical data are needed. Health-related quality of life: In addition to experiencing joint and tissue bleeds, women experience psychosocial and medical issues associated with menstruation, pregnancy, labour and delivery. HMB has the greatest impact, and is associated with impaired HRQoL in almost all and dissatisfaction with the burden of treatment. There is a need for focused psychosocial support and a specific tool for the assessment of HRQoL in women with bleeding disorders. Pelvic pain: Gynaecological causes of pelvic pain in women with bleeding disorders include dysmenorrhoea, mid-cycle pain, bleeding into the corpus luteum and endometriosis. There is no correlation between bleeding tendency and endometriosis severity; however, screening for a bleeding disorder should be considered. Pharmacological management may be hormonal or non-hormonal. Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonists offer an alternative to surgery for women with severe bleeding disorders who have endometriosis. Paracetamol is the preferred early analgesic option. Endometrial ablation controls heavy bleeding and pelvic pain but is not recommended for women with large fibroids or a large endometrial cavity. Hysterectomy is an option of last resort. Education for health professionals should include raising awareness about the management of pain in women with bleeding disorders.
We describe the case of a patient with severe haemophilia A and significant comorbidities who underwent surgery to remove a large intra-abdominal haematoma first diagnosed 12 years previously. The haemophilia team was instrumental in coordinating care, building a strong rapport with surgical and other medical teams to manage bleeding risk with continuous infusion of factor VIII (FVIII). Medical teams adjusted their working hours according to clinical need. Haemophilia nurses were available to offer support at all times, and developed management procedures and educated staff on haemophilia and its treatment. Perioperative complications included a thrombus occluding the right internal jugular vein, infection and paraesthesia. However, surgery was effective and the patient was pleased with the overall outcome. Haemophilia nurses established strong and rewarding relationships with other teams that will enhance the delivery of care in the future.
Iron deficiency/anaemia and periodontal disease are among the non-gynaecological issues that may present a challenge in women with bleeding disorders. Anaemia is a global health problem, affecting around 32.5% of non-pregnant women aged under 50 and over 40% of pregnant women. It causes fatigue, shortness of breath and dizziness. Anaemia is usually diagnosed by a low serum level of ferritin. Ferritin may be normal in a person who is taking an iron supplement or in the presence of inflammation, in which case the diagnosis can be confirmed by a low transferrin saturation level. A low level of iron should be corrected in a woman with a bleeding disorder, and women must recognise the importance of doing so. If a healthy diet alone does not avoid iron deficiency, oral supplementation is indicated on a low dose regimen to reduce adverse effects; intravenous administration should be used when rapid restoration of iron is indicated. Failure to respond to iron supplementation is an indication for further investigation. Periodontal disease has only recently been recognised as a modern-day epidemic and can have a major impact on quality of life. Oral health has long been ignored in people with a bleeding disorder as bleeding gums secondary to periodontitis are often attributed to the underlying condition. People with a bleeding disorder may therefore feel they can do nothing to improve their oral health. However, healthy gums do not bleed, even in people with a bleeding disorder. While bleeding gums are often accepted as a consequence of having a bleeding disorder, effective cleaning has been shown to reduce gingivitis and bleeding. Regular contact with a dentist should start at a young age and continue throughout life.
Background: In tropical countries such as Nigeria, where factor VIII (FVIII) is scarce, severe pain due to musculoskeletal bleeding complications, leading to frequent opioid prescription, is not uncommon in poorly managed people with haemophilia (PWH). The relationship between opioid use and dependence is intensively studied in other painful diseases, such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, but surprisingly little is known about opioid dependence in haemophilia. We hypothesise that the risk of opioid dependence among PWH in tropical countries like Nigeria is multi-factorial, encompassing demographic (age), clinical (haemophilia severity and chronic arthropathy) and biological (ABO blood groups and haemoglobin (Hb) phenotypes) factors that may directly or indirectly increase incidence of bleeding and/or pain.
Aims: To determine the prevalence of opioid dependence and relative risks (RR) associated with age, haemophilia severity, chronic arthropathy, ABO blood groups and Hb phenotypes, and to elucidate the pathophysiological roles of each risk factor in the development of opioid dependence among haemophilia-A patients in five hospitals in northern Nigeria.
Methodology: A retrospective review of the medical records of 88 PWH seen between 1996 and 2012 was used to collate data on age, sex, haemophilia severity, painful chronic haemophilic arthropathy, ABO blood group, haemoglobin phenotypes, presence or absence of opioid dependence, and the types of opioids on which the patients were dependent. The prevalence of opioid dependence among the cohort was expressed as a percentage. The frequency of each putative risk factor for opioid dependence in patients with and without opioid dependence were compared using Fisher’s exact test; RR associated with each risk factor was determined by regression analysis. P<0.05 was taken as significant.
Results: Of the 88 PWH studied,15 (17%) were shown to be opioid-dependent. Compared with PWH who were not opioid-dependent, this group had higher frequencies of severe haemophilia (86.7% vs. 49.3%: RR= 5.2, p=0.02), survival to adulthood (73.3% vs. 12.3%: RR= 9.5, p=0.0001), chronic arthropathy in one or more joints (86.7% vs. 21.9%: RR= 13.2, p=0.0004), blood group-O (80% vs. 49.3%: RR= 3.3, p=0.04), and HbAA phenotype (86.7% vs. 54.8%: RR= 4.3, p=0.04).
Conclusion: Prevalence of opioid dependence among PWH treated at five hospitals in northern Nigeria was 17% during the study period. Significant risk factors were directly or indirectly associated with increased rates of bleeding and/or pain, which can only be prevented or treated through optimal application of FVIII. There is a need for the Nigerian government to establish standard haemophilia care centres with adequate FVIII for optimal prophylaxis and treatment in order to minimise painful complications, thereby helping to prevent undue opioid use and dependence.
Experience of surgery during prophylaxis with emicizumab is currently limited, but the information available suggests that it is associated with a low risk of complications. This case study describes the surgical management of a patient with haemophilia A and inhibitors, managed with emicizumab prophylaxis, who underwent parathyroidectomy. The plan to manage bleeding risk during surgery involved prophylaxis with oral tranexamic acid 1g six-hourly and recombinant Factor VIIa (rFVIIa), prescribed at the discretion of the consultant haematologist. Preoperatively, rFVIIa 45 mcg/kg (3 mg) was administered immediately, and repeated every three to four hours after surgery depending on clinical presentation. There was no unexpected or excessive bleeding during surgery and no clinical need for additional haemostatic medication. Postoperatively, rFVIIa 3 mg was administered at three and ten hours after the first dose. Two further doses were administered on the morning and evening of the first postoperative day. There was no unexpected or excessive bleeding requiring additional treatment, and satisfactory haemostasis resulted in optimal wound healing. The patient reported no bleeding episodes and also an improved quality of life. This case study demonstrates the successful use of emicizumab in conjunction with rFVIIa.