*Hemophilia A and Hemophilia B

Chapter: Hemophilia A and Hemophilia B
McMaster Section Editor(s): Mark Crowther
Section Editor(s) in Interna Szczeklika: Andrzej Hellmann, Bogdan Ochrem
McMaster Author(s): Alfonso Iorio, Mark Crowther
Author(s) in Interna Szczeklika: Jerzy Windyga
Additional Information

Definition, Etiology, ClassificationTop

Hemophilia A and hemophilia B are inherited coagulation disorders. Mutations of the genes of factor VIII or factor IX, located on chromosome X, may result—mostly in men, as in X-linked disorders—in a decrease or absence of synthesis of these factors or in the synthesis of defective factors. Hemophilia A is caused by reduced activity of factor VIII, whereas hemophilia B is caused by reduced activity of factor IX.

A classification of hemophilia based on factor VIII or factor IX activity levels:

1) <1% of normal (<0.01 U/mL): Severe hemophilia.

2) 1% to 5% of normal (0.01-0.05 U/mL): Moderate hemophilia.

3) >5% to 40% of normal (>0.05-0.4 U/mL): Mild hemophilia.

Clinical Features and Natural HistoryTop

Features of bleeding disorder usually appear at the age of 1 to 2 years. In patients with severe hemophilia the dominant features are spontaneous joint hemorrhages; these most frequently affect the knees, elbows, and ankles, and lead to joint destruction, deformation (termed hemophilic arthropathy), and secondary muscle atrophy. Other manifestations include bleeding into muscles (often in the iliopsoas), hematuria, gastrointestinal bleeding, intracranial bleeding (frequently fatal), and bleeding to the posterior pharyngeal wall or lower wall of the oral cavity. A typical feature is delayed and persistent bleeding after surgery or tooth extraction. Spontaneous bleeding is rare in patients with moderate hemophilia and virtually absent in patients with mild hemophilia.


Diagnostic Tests

1. Screening tests: The activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) is prolonged in most patients with hemophilia A or B; however, it may be normal in patients with mild hemophilia and factor VIII or IX activity >30%.

2. Studies confirming the diagnosis: Reduced plasma activity of factor VIII or IX, genetic studies.

Diagnostic Criteria

A documented decrease in the plasma activity of factor VIII or factor IX.

Differential Diagnosis

1. Von Willebrand disease.

2. Acquired hemophilia (see Acquired Hemophilia A).

3. Other causes of a prolonged aPTT in a patient with a normal prothrombin time (PT), such as lupus anticoagulant (see Antiphospholipid Syndrome).


General Measures

1. Patients with hemophilia should always carry identification indicating their diagnosis, emergency management, and contact details of their physician. Patients can engage in physical activity but should take particular care to avoid injuries and may require pharmacologic prophylaxis (situational prophylaxis).

2. Do not use antiplatelet agents; in particular, do not use acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). In the treatment of pain (eg, pain caused by hemarthrosis) use acetaminophen (INN paracetamol), selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors, and opioids. Patients with medical conditions requiring antiplatelet treatment are better referred to specialized centers.

3. Avoid intramuscular injections.

4. Prophylactic treatment (see Pharmacotherapy, below) prevents complications of the disease and is recommended in most patients with severe hemophilia where available.

5. Treatment of most cases of bleeding as well as prophylactic treatment may be self-administered at home by a trained patient. In the case of joint bleeding, RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) may help contain the pain. The effect on duration of symptoms and arthropathy is unknown.

6. Surgical procedures and treatment of life-threatening hemorrhages should always be conducted in centers that are capable of daily laboratory monitoring of treatment results (measurements of factor VIII or IX activity, titers of factor VIII or IX inhibitors).


1. Plasma-derived or recombinant factor VIII or factor IX concentrates administered as intravenous injections:

1) Long-term prophylactic treatment: The goal of the treatment is to maintain the deficient factor plasma level above 1% to 2%. In patients with hemophilia A, use factor VIII concentrates 25 to 40 U/kg 3 times a week or every other day. In patients with hemophilia B, use factor IX concentrates 25 to 50 U/kg 2 to 3 times a week. Measurements of plasma factor levels at the end of the treatment interval (trough levels) are recommended to tailor the dose to the individual needs. The frequency of prophylactic administration can be adapted to the schedule of physical activity, particularly in children and adolescents.

2) Prophylactic treatment before planned surgical procedures (including tooth extraction; Table 1): Such procedures should only be managed in expert centers with immediate access to monitoring of coagulation factor levels. In case of emergency surgery, administer factor VIII or IX to raise the level >80% (0.8 U/mL) trough for the entire duration of the procedure and at least 3 postoperative days.

3) Treatment of bleeding: In patients with hemophilia A, administer a factor VIII concentrate every 8, 12, or 24 hours. In patients with hemophilia B, administer a factor IX concentrate when needed, for instance, every 12, 18, or 24 hours. Dosage: Table 1. Start treatment as soon as possible (optimally within 2 hours); in patients with life-threatening bleeding (head, neck, chest, or gastrointestinal hemorrhage), treatment should be started before completing diagnostics and does not require a factor VIII level prior to its initiation.

Intravenous administration of 1 U of lyophilized factor VIII concentrate/kg increases plasma factor VIII activity by ~2% of normal (0.02 U/mL). Intravenous administration of 1 U of lyophilized factor IX concentrate/kg increases plasma factor IX activity by ~1% of normal (0.01 U/mL). In patients with a poor clinical response to treatment, suspect factor VIII or factor IX inhibitors.

2. Desmopressin is the drug of choice in patients with mild hemophilia A (dosage: see Von Willebrand Disease). Desmopressin causes a 2- to 5-fold increase in plasma factor VIII activity by releasing it from tissue stores. This pool can be exhausted after 3 to 7 days of continuous desmopressin treatment; in such situations, consider the administration of a human-derived factor VIII concentrate. In patients treated with desmopressin (especially children, pregnant women, and the elderly) the drug can induce water retention, hyponatremia, and occasionally seizures. Desmopressin has no effect on plasma factor IX and is not used in hemophilia B.

3. Tranexamic acid is used for clot stabilization in patients with oral bleeding, epistaxis, and urogenital bleeding. Dosage: see Von Willebrand Disease.

4. Novel treatments: A variety of novel treatments are being explored for the treatment of hemophilia including small interfering RNA (siRNA) therapies that downregulate anticoagulant proteins in the blood and bispecific antibodies that circumvent the coagulation cascade, eliminating the need for components of the coagulation cascade. Both of these treatments may be effective irrespective of the presence of an inhibitor.


1. Development of inhibitors of factor VIII or factor IX: IgG antibodies against factor VIII (factor VIII inhibitors) develop in about 30% of patients with severe hemophilia A and in 5% to 10% of patients with moderate or mild hemophilia A (in some patients spontaneous clearance of the inhibitor occurs). Antibodies to factor IX develop in <5% of patients with severe hemophilia B and may cause allergic reactions after the administration of factor IX. In prevention and treatment of bleeding in patients with inhibitor titers <5 Bethesda units/mL (BU/mL), administer high doses of factor VIII/IX concentrates while monitoring plasma factor VIII/IX activity. In patients with inhibitor titers >5 BU/mL, use an activated prothrombin complex concentrate (aPCC) 50 to 100 U/kg every 6 to 12 hours or recombinant factor VIIa 90 to 120 microg/kg every 2 to 3 hours. If specific treatment is not available, a standard prothrombin complex concentrate (PCC) can be used to treat emergency bleeding. Treatment strategies to eliminate inhibitors should only be used in centers with focused skills in this area; referral to such centers should be strongly considered in all patients with inhibitors.

2. Chronic synovitis, hemophilic arthropathy: Adult patients with severe hemophilia are at risk of arthropathy leading to disability if they have not received effective prophylaxis.

3. Viral infections related to treatment with blood products: Since the late 1980s and the introduction of virally inactivated plasma-derived factor concentrates, the risk of transmission of hepatitis C and B viruses as well as HIV with plasma-derived clotting factor concentrates has been minimal.


Table 1. Dosage of factor VIII and factor IX in the treatment of moderate to severe hemophilia


Hemophilia A, dose of factor VIII concentrate (U/kg)

Hemophilia B, dose of factor IX concentrate (U/kg)

Treatment duration (days)a

Bleeding to joints and/or muscles, epistaxis, gingival bleeding



1-2 days; in case of unsatisfactory effects increase dose and prolong treatment

Tooth extractionb



Once before procedure

Bleeding: to lower wall of oral cavity and to neck; gastrointestinal; to iliopsoas; intracranial; retroperitoneal hematomas; surgical procedures



For 1-7 days after onset of bleeding, then reduce dose

a Depending on the clinical situation, administer a factor VIII concentrate every 8, 12, or 24 hours (hemophilia A) and factor IX concentrate every 12, 18, or 24 hours (hemophilia B).

b For 7 days from the extraction, administer tranexamic acid 10-15 mg/kg every 8 hours.

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