Hemorrhage and blood loss–induced anemia associated with an acquired coagulation factor VIII inhibitor in a Thoroughbred mare

Contributing Author Laramie Winfield DVM, DACVIM

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brownmareCase Description—A 23-year-old Thoroughbred mare was evaluated because of a coagulopathy causing hemoperitoneum, hematomas, and signs of blood loss–induced anemia.

Clinical Findings—The mare had tachycardia, pallor, hypoperfusion, and a large mass in the right flank. The mass was further characterized ultrasonographically as an extensive hematoma in the body wall with associated hemoabdomen. Coagulation testing revealed persistent, specific prolongation of the activated partial thromboplastin time (> 100 seconds; reference interval, 24 to 44 seconds) attributable to severe factor VIII deficiency (12%; reference interval, 50% to 200%). On the basis of the horse’s age, lack of previous signs of a bleeding diathesis, and subsequent quantification of plasma factor VIII inhibitory activity (Bethesda assay titer, 2.7 Bethesda units/mL), acquired hemophilia A was diagnosed. The medical history did not reveal risk factors or underlying diseases; thus, the development of inhibitory antibodies against factor VIII was considered to be idiopathic.

Treatment and Outcome—The mare was treated with 2 transfusions of fresh whole blood and fresh-frozen plasma. Immunosuppressive treatment consisting of dexamethasone and azathioprine was initiated. Factor VIII deficiency and signs of coagulopathy resolved, and the inhibitory antibody titer decreased. The mare remained healthy with no relapse for at least 1 year after treatment.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Horses may develop inhibitory antibodies against factor VIII that cause acquired hemophilia A. A treatment strategy combining transfusions of whole blood and fresh-frozen plasma and administration of immunosuppressive agents was effective and induced sustained remission for at least 1 year in the mare described here.

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