Acquired bleeding disorders in the elderly
Hematology ASH Education Program
The hemostatic balance changes with advancing age which may be due to factors such as platelet activation, increase of certain clotting factor proteins, slowing of the fibrinolytic system, and modification of the endothelium and blood flow. Generally, this predisposes the elderly to thrombosis rather than bleeding. It often necessitates antiplatelet or anticoagulation therapy, which can cause significant bleeding problems in an aging population. Additionally, changing renal function,
... unction, modification in immune regulation, and a multitude of other disease processes, can give rise to acquired bleeding disorders. Bleeding can prove difficult to treat in a dynamic environment and in a population that may have underlying thrombotic risk factors. This article discusses some specific challenges of acquired bleeding arising in the elderly. The use of anticoagulation and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications is prevalent in the treatment of the elderly and predisposes them to increased bleeding risk as their physiology changes. When prescribing and monitoring these therapies, it is exceedingly important to weigh thrombotic versus bleeding risks. There are additional rare acquired bleeding disorders that predominantly affect the elderly. One of them is acquired hemophilia, which is an autoimmune disorder arising from antibodies against factor VIII. The treatment challenge rests in the use of hemostatic agents in a population that is already at increased risk for thrombotic complications. Another rare disorder of intensifying interest, acquired von Willebrand syndrome, has a multitude of etiologic mechanisms. Understanding the underlying pathophysiology is essential in making a treatment decision for this disorder.