Although it may seem that veterans would have a very low risk of bleeding disorders since they were medically cleared for military service, a hematologist/oncologist cautioned that veterans might indeed suffer from both inherited and noninherited forms of these conditions. At the virtual 2020 annual meeting of the Association of VA Hematology/Oncology (AVAHO) Bethany Samuelson Bannow, MD, of Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute urged colleagues to understand the diagnosis and treatment of bleeding disorders.
“Most importantly, even though these are patients you probably don’t see on a regular basis, you are never alone,” since colleagues are available to help, she said. Samuelson Bannow treats patients at US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Portland Health Care System and used her presentation to focus on 4 types of bleeding disorders. A summary of her perspective and recommendations follows.
Acquired hemophilia: Watch for Infections
Acquired hemophilia affects only an estimated 1.3 to 1.5 in 1 million people, but VA physicians may see it more often since it affects an older population (median age is 78 years), Samuelson Bannow said. “I’ve seen about 4 cases in the last 2 years,” she said. “I’m not sure if we’re a magnet, but it does come up.”
The diagnosis is based on laboratory findings, and a lack of personal or family history of coagulopathy is key, she said. Twenty percent or more of patients older than 65 years die from the disorder, but bleeding usually isn’t the cause. Instead, patients tend to die from infections, she said.
Initial treatment must focus on stopping the bleeding, she said. The new drug porcine antihemophilic factor (recombinant)—Obizur—“is very helpful” and is Samuelson Bannow’s first choice, but it may not widely available at all VA medical centers. Recombinant FVIIa (NovoSeven) and activated prothrombin complex concentrate (Feiba) also are options.
“The goal is to overpower the clotting cascade and get that burst of thrombin generation that you need to get the bleeding under control. Titrate to the amount of bleeding the patient is having, and make sure you’re doing local control as well,” Samuelson Bannow said. She added that the 2 agents may not work depending on the patient. Neither is preferred and both may be appropriate. “There’s no real reason to pick one over the other beyond convenience and availability.”
There’s another “equally important component of management,” she said: Inhibitor eradication. “The only way to do this is with immune suppression. You’re going to have to suppress the immune system to get rid of the inhibitor. That’s why we see such high rates of death because we have to use heavy-hitter immunosuppressants.”
Treatment options include steroids and cyclophosphamide (a common first-line option), rituximab, calcineurin inhibitors, and mycophenolate mofetil. “Just be aware that there is an increased risk of infection with these agents,” she said. “You want to see a decrease in the titer of your inhibitor. This can take 3 or more weeks, and it can take longer for it to disappear entirely. Look for normalized factor VIII level and absent inhibitor.”