Treatment Guidelines for Haemophilia in Lesotho

These guidelines have been compiled by the South African Haemophilia Foundation Medical and Scientific Advisory Council (SAHF MASAC) to facilitate the appropriate management of people with haemophilia (PWH). The current guidelines are based on the publication noted below.

This guide is also available to be downloaded in .pdf format here.

Mahlangu J, Gillham A; South African Medical Journal, February 2008, 98(2):127 – 138

Note to Healthcare Personnel

This booklet is intended as a guide for healthcare personnel who might not be familiar with haemophilia. People with haemophilia (PWH) and their physicians should be advised by a Comprehensive Haemophilia Treatment Centre staffed by a multidisciplinary team skilled in the care of this uncommon chronic bleeding disorder.

Parents of patients with severe haemophilia are usually trained in home infusion of the clotting Factor when their child is about four years old and self infusion is normally accomplished by 12 – 14 years of age. However, infants and boys with mild haemophilia must rely on a Haemophilia Centre or other medical facility for clotting Factor infusions.

Please contact your nearest Haemophilia Treatment Centre if you have any uncertainty regarding management.

Acknowledgement is made of all the past and current members of MASAC, who have produced the previous edition, and reviewed the current edition.

Haemophilia Overview

Haemophilia is an inherited, x-linked, lifelong bleeding disorder which affects males almost exclusively. Most frequently haemorrhage involves joints or muscles. Bleeding patterns differ with age: infants usually bleed into soft tissues or from the mouth but as the boy grows, characteristic joint bleeding becomes more common.

Haemophilia A is the most common form of haemophilia and is due to a deficiency of clotting Factor VIII.

Haemophilia B is due to a deficiency of clotting Factor IX.


Haemophilia is classified as severe, moderate, or mild according to the levels of circulating Factor VIII or IX and indicates the expected frequency of bleeding:

Severe: Factor VIII or IX < 1%
Factor VIII or IX replacement is needed several times per month for traumatic or apparently spontaneous bleeding may be on regular prophylactic factor therapy.
Moderate: Factor VIII or IX 1 – 5%
Less frequent bleeding which usually follows trauma, surgery or dental work.
Mild: Factor VIII or IX > 5 – < 40%
Occasional bleeding, usually only after severe trauma or surgery.

Factor VIII Inhibitors in Haemophilia

Inhibitors may develop in 10 – 15% of persons with haemophilia A but are much less common in haemophilia B (1 – 3%). Inhibitors are neutralising antibodies that limit the effectiveness of Factor infusions.

Risk Factors for the development of inhibitors:

  • severe haemophilia
  • family history of inhibitor development
  • more frequent in black patients

If an individual is going to develop an inhibitor, this usually happens within the first 50 exposure days after starting Factor VIII replacement therapy.

Inhibitors titres are measured in Bethesda units (BU)

Low Responders: titre remains below < 5 BU
High Responders: titre above > 5 BU. The level may increase markedly and rapidly after Factor VIII infusion (may have rapid anamnestic response in 3 days)

Rules for Inhibitor Management

  1. Monitor all patients every 3 – 6 months for the development of inhibitors. This is particularly important and should be done more frequently in newly diagnosed black patients with severe haemophilia A, who are at greater risk.
  2. Never undertake a surgical procedure or joint aspiration in a person with haemophilia without checking for inhibitors.
  3. If there is no response to appropriate replacement therapy, test for inhibitors.
  4. Call a Haemophilia Treatment Centre for advice on patient management.

Refer to Factor VIII inhibitor management options section.

Types of Bleeding

Major bleeding episodes

  1. Central nervous system
  2. Gastrointestinal
  3. Neck/throat
  4. Severe injury
  5. Hip or iliopsoas
  6. Advanced joint/muscle
  7. Forearm compartment


  • May cause death or deformity. Advice should be sought from a Haemophilia Treatment Centre physician.
  • Start appropriate Factor replacement urgently. Hospitalisation is usually required to maintain adequate Factor levels.
  • If the patient has an inhibitor, the Haemophilia Treatment Centre must be consulted for major bleeding problems.

Minor bleeding episodes

  1. Joint (early)
  2. Muscle/soft tissue
  3. Mouth/gums
  4. Epistaxis
  5. Painless haematuria


  • Although considered minor bleeds, complications may occur. If there are uncertainties about medical management, consult a Haemophilia Treatment Centre.
  • Treat early to avoid long term complications.


Commonly affected joints

Knees, elbows, ankles, (shoulder, hip and other joint bleeds are rare).

Symptoms & Signs

  • Tingling sensation (early)
  • Stiffness
  • Pain
  • Limited range of motion
  • Swelling
  • Limp or refusal to use limb

Treatment Guidelines

Replace missing Factor, see the sections on:
Factor VIII – Treatment Guidelines
Factor IX – Treatment Guidelines

Muscle & Soft Tissue Bleeding

Dangerous Areas

  • Quadrats femoris (thigh)
  • Forearm compartment
  • Neck/throat
  • Iliopsoas/retroperitoneal
  • Popliteal
  • Gastrocnemius (calf

Symptoms & Signs

  • Muscle tightness (early)
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Limited range of motion
  • Bruising
  • Warmth
  • Refusal to use limb (young child)


Replace missing Factor, see sections on:
Factor VIII – Treatment Guidelines
Factor IX – Treatment Guidelines

  • Ultrasound or CT scan to confirm diagnosis and get baseline clot size.

Head Injury – a Medical Emergency


Minor head trauma can lead to CNS bleeding.
Unrecognised trauma is common in children.
“Spontaneous” bleeds can occur.

Symptoms & Signs
(onset may be delayed)

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability/convulsions
  • Lethargy/drowsiness
  • Vision disturbance
  • Focal neurologic deficits
  • Ataxia
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Paralysis


  1. Urgent Factor replacement – measure level and maintain above 80 – 100% for 7 days. Then maintain plasma factor level at 50% for haemophilia A and 30% for haemophilia B for a further 14 days.
  2. CT scan of head
  3. Call a Haemophilia Treatment Centre

Oral Bleeding

Dental / Gum Bleeding / Epistaxis / Tongue

  • Bleeding can be profuse
  • Swallowing blood: vomiting blood, dark tarry stools
  • May need Hb and HCT


Replace missing Factor, as per minor bleed, refer to sections on:
Factor VIII – Treatment Guidelines
Factor IX – Treatment Guidelines

  • Tranexamic acid (see section on Treatment Guidelines for Other Products)
  • Local pressure
  • Ice 5 minutes on, 10 minutes off
  • If tooth extracted use deep silk or Vicryl suture
  • Red cell transfusion if necessary

Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Potential emergency

  • Bleeding can be profuse
  • Blood / coffee-ground emesis
  • Dark/tarry stools


Immediate Factor replacement refer to sections on:
Factor VIII – Treatment Guidelines
Factor IX – Treatment Guidelines
as per major bleed.

Genito-urinary Bleed

  • Usually spontaneous

Signs & Symptoms

  • May have renal angle tenderness
  • Red or dark urine
  • Usually no dysuria


  • Increase fluid intake (1 glass/hour)
  • Bed rest
  • If not resolved in 24 hours treat with Factor replacement

Refer to section on:
Factor VIII – Treatment Guidelines
Factor IX – Treatment Guidelines
as per major bleed.

  • Continue to increase fluids and bed rest for 7 days

Managment of Patients undergoing Surgery

Types of surgical interventions

  • Minor surgery, which includes endoscopy, skin biopsy, bronchoscopy, lumbar puncture, dental procedures, etc.
  • Major surgery, which includes laparotomy, arthroplasty.

Preoperative assessment and preparation

  • Consultation between surgeon, haematologist and blood centre.
  • Check FBC, liver function, renal function and inhibitor level.
  • Do Factor recovery studies.
  • Prepare a written management plan and communicate this to all stakeholders.

Treatment goals

  • Raise Factor level to 50 – 80% for minor surgery and 80 – 100% for major surgery
  • Maintain Factor level at 50% for major surgery for at least 7 – 14 days.
  • Avoid intraoperative and postoperative blood loss.

Treatment approach

  • Haemophilia A:
    • for major surgery, give 40 – 50 IU/kg FVIII
    • for minor surgery give 20 – 40 IU/kg FVIII, 30 minutes before surgery, 6 hours postoperatively and then 12-hourly thereafter.
  • Haemophilia B:
    • for major surgery, give 60 – 80 IU/kg FIX
    • for minor surgery 20 – 40 IU/kg, 30 minutes before surgery.
  • Repeat the same dose 6 hours postoperatively and then daily thereafter.
  • Factor infusion for major surgery should continue for 7 – 14 days.
  • Venous thromboembolism (VTE) prophylaxis using elastic stockings should be considered in all high-risk surgery.
  • Keep peak maintenance Factor level at 50% until healing has started.
  • Introduce postoperative rehabilitation and mobilisation gradually under Factor prophylaxis.
  • Continuous infusion of Factor with a pump may be used.
  • Use of antibiotics postoperatively is mandatory.
  • Ensure that patient receives adequate analgesia
    – NB avoid intramuscular analgesia.

Managment of Chronic Synovitis and Target Joints

  • Synovitis is the inflamed state of the synovium
  • Blood vessels proliferate.
  • These vessels are more prone to recurrent bleeding and target joint occurs.


  • Secondary prophylaxis (see prophylaxis section).
  • Raise plasma level above 5 %.
  • Exercises to strengthen joint and muscle.
  • Ablation of the synovium using Yttrium Synoviorthesis (only at HCCC).

Management of the Haemophilia Carrier and Pregnancy

  • Check haemophilia carrier baseline Factor level
  • Symptomatic carriers managed according to severity of symptoms
  • May be treated with DDAVP, Tranexamic acid or Factor replacement


  • Provide pre-pregnancy genetic counselling to all carriers
  • Establish gene abnormality

At Pregnancy

  • Take family and personal bleeding history
  • Plan management with obstetrician and haematologist
  • Measure Factor level at 28 and 34 weeks
  • If bleeding do not use DDAVP

At delivery

  • Plan for vaginal delivery
  • Avoid scalp monitor
  • Avoid vacuum and forceps
  • Take cord blood for Factor levels
  • Avoid heel pricks
  • Give oral Vit K
  • If bleed use Factor replacement

Post Partum

  • Watch for post partum bleeding
  • Treat with Factor replacement or DDAVP


Genetic testing for haemophilia A and B is important for:

  • Definitive carrier testing
  • Prenatal counselling and testing


  • Primary prophylaxis is aimed at stopping spontaneous bleeds in people who have severe haemophilia
  • Secondary prophylaxis is given when there is a high requirement for on demand treatment
  • Single dose prophylaxis is given prior to an event known to cause bleeding


  • Haemophilia A: give 25 – 40 IU/kg 2 – 3 times per week
  • Haemophilia B: give 25 – 40 IU/kg twice per week

Management of Pain in Haemophilia

  • The most effective pain management is early appropriate Factor replacement.

Pain may be caused by

  • Joint capsular stretching as a result of haemarthroses
  • Haemophilia arthropathy
  • Compartment syndrome


  • COX-2 inhibitors are favoured due to favourable side effects, good analgesic effects, anti- inflammatory and anti angiogenic effects
  • Other agents known to relieve pain without increasing bleeding risk are:
    • opiates
    • paracetamol
See section on the products available in South Africa

  • Always refer to the Haemophilia Treatment Centre physician’s instructions
  • Treatment products may change: always read the package insert
  • Patients with inhibitors require special treatment

Factor VIII Treatment Guidelines

Factor VIII replacement for Haemophilia A, no inhibitor

Dose depends on bleeding severity
Minor bleed: 20 – 40 IU/kg
Major bleed: 40 – 50 IU/kg
Expected response: 1 IU/kg = 2% rise in Factor VIII level
Half life Factor VIII: 8-12 hr
For serious bleeding Factor VIII assay may be required to monitor the response to the infusion.
If there is no response to appropriate replacement therapy, test for inhibitors.

Factor IX Treatment Guidelines

Factor IX replacement for Haemophilia B, no inhibitor

Dose depends on bleeding severity
Minor bleed: 20 – 40 IU/kg
Major bleed: 60 – 80 IU/kg
Expected response: 1 IU/kg = 1% rise in Factor IX level
Half life Factor IX: 16-24 hr
For serious bleeding Factor IX assay may be required to monitor the response to the infusion.
If there is no response to appropriate replacement therapy, test for inhibitors.

Factor VIII or IX Inhibitor Management Options

See section on the products available in South Africa

Haemophilia A

1. Acute bleeding episodes

Ice/cold pack – 5 minutes on, 10 minutes off
Immobilise joint with a splint
Low Responder (< 5 BU)

  • Give Factor VIII at 2 – 3 times the normal dose
  • Monitor response clinically
  • Frequent factor recovery levels

High Responder (> 5 BU)
Both APCC and rVIIa are effective for treatment of acute bleeding episodes in patients with Factor VIII inhibitors.

  • Activated Prothromibin Complex Concentrate (APCC)
    Dose: 50 – 100 IU/kg q12 – 24h for 3 days or until clinical improvement Infuse at 2 IU/kg/min
    Do not exceed a single dose of 200 IU/kg

    • Do not use antifibrinolytic drugs (e.g. tranexamic acid) concurrently because of the risk of thromboembolism
  • Recombinant Factor VIIa (rFVIIa)
    90 μg per kg q2 – 3 h or by continuous infusion (at 20 μg/kg/hr) until clinical improvement.
    Factor VIIa activates Factor X and leads to the formation of a haemostatic plug.
    New single dose of 270 μg/kg may be used
  • Tranexamic acid 15 – 25 mg/kg/dose po/IV q6- 8h may be used concurrently with recombinant Factor VIIa.

2. Long term Management – Immune tolerance (IT)

  • IT should be initiated at a Haemophilia Treatment Centre
  • Successful therapy (eliminating the inhibitor) may take months.
  • Several regimens are effective – the Dutch regime
    (25 IU Factor VIII/kg 3 times per week) is the most affordable.

Haemophilia B

Treatment of haemophilia B with inhibitors

  • An aPCC should be carefully monitored for anaphylaxis and anamnestic reaction. Therefore patients with haemophilia B and inhibitors are best treated with rFVIIa, the only bypassing agent that does not contain FIX.
  • There is no evidence to guide tolerisation procedures in patients with haemophilia B and inhibitors. Plasma-derived FIX may be used for tolerisation with careful monitoring of anaphylactic reactions

Treatment with rFVIIa:

  • Give dose of 90 – 120 μg/kg IV every 2 – 3 hours as bolus or 20 IU/kg/hour as continuous infusion. Single dose of 270 μg/kg may be used.
  • Antifibrinolytic can be given concurrently with rFVIIa.

Rehabilitation Exercises After Joint or Muscle Bleeds

Rehabilitation after a bleed is essential to maintain strength and range of motion.


Any person with haemophilia and related bleeding disorders may have transfusion acquired infection.

  • Test annually for HAV, HBV, HCV.
  • Antibody/antigen negative patients should be immunised, and response assessed.
  • Active infection should be excluded in positive patients.
  • Patients with chronic active hepatitis should be referred to a Hepatologist for management.

NB. Patients with hepatic dysfunction may have other Factor deficiencies (test PT or INR) or a low platelet count.

Treatment Guidelines for Other Products

Do not give aspirin

Tranexamic acid
(see package insert)
15-25 mg/kg/dose po/IV q6 or 8 hr.


0.3 μg/kg IV in normal saline over 20-30 minutes
0.4 μg/kg SC

Childhood Immunisation

Following the injections:
press on area > 5 min.
Apply ice.
Subcutaneous injection is safer.

Haemophilia Treatment Products Available via South Africa

Plasma-derived Factor VIII Products:

Product Name Company Contact Details
Haemosolvate Factor VIII National Bioproducts Institute NPC Ronnie Ramphal
+27 31 714 6700
+27 83 229 5339
Virally Inactivated Factor VIII Western Province Blood Transfusion Service +27 21 507 6300

Factor IX Complex Products (Prothrombin Complex Concentrates [PCC]):

Product Name Company Contact Details
Haemosolvex Factor IX National Bioproducts Institute NPC Ronnie Ramphal
+27 31 714 6700
+27 83 229 5339

Activated Prothrombin Complex Concentrate (APCC):

Product Name Company Contact Details
FEIBA Adcock Ingram Critical Care Janine Blackensee
+27 11 494 8496
+27 76 538 6532

Recombinant Factor VIIa:

Product Name Company Contact Details
NovoSeven Novo Nordisk Piletso Maniza
+27 83 255 8299

Recombinant Factor VIII:

Product Name Company Contact Details
Kogenate FS
Antihaemophilic Factor
250 IU, 500 IU, 1000 IU
Bayer Schering Pharma Tracey Tingle
+27 11 921 5633
+27 82 324 9211