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Regular Treatment Prevents Bleeding in Hemophiliacs
Regular Treatment Prevents Bleeding in Hemophiliacs

August 8, 2007 (Insidermedicine)  Hemophilia is a hereditary condition,  which is passed on from one generation to the next. People with hemophilia have blood that doesn’t clot normally, which makes a person bleed for a longer time. This is because they are missing Factor VIII- a protein that is involved in making the blood stickier.

External wounds are usually not that serious, but internal bleeding, or hemorrhaging, is. These hemorrhages are in joints, especially knees, ankles and elbows; and into tissues and muscles. When bleeding occurs in a vital organ, especially the brain, a hemophiliac’s life is in danger.

Treating the patient preventively – or in anticipation of bleeding – has not been widely used; most hemophiliacs are treated at the time of bleeding. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, regular preventive treatment with recombinant Factor VIII can prevent bleeding in people with severe hemophilia.

This is what we already know about hemophilia:

•    It affects about 400,000 people of all races, colours and ethnic origins worldwide, and the most severe forms of hemophilia affect almost only males.

•    The basic treatment to stop or prevent bleeding in people with hemophilia is Factor VIII replacement therapy, which must be done every few days

•    Factor VIII treatment is very expensive and can cost up to $300,000 per patient each year

A recent study involving 65 young boys with hemophilia found that those who had received regular preventive treatment every other day with factor VIII had 38% less joint damage and bleeding than boys treated just at the time of bleeding. In fact, those who received treatment only at the time of bleeding were seven times more likely to have a bleed in their joints, and were more likely to experience life-threatening bleeding.

Early preventive treatment may help preserve the joints and result in fewer bleeding episodes later in life, less disability in adults, and lower overall healthcare costs. If you have a child who is a hemophiliac, you should ask your doctor about preventative treatments for hemophilia.

For Insidermedicine in Depth, I'm Dr. Susan Sharma.