Hereditary Haemorrhagic Telangiectasia

Journal of the association of physicians of india • vol 62 • december, 2014
Case Reports
Hereditary Haemorrhagic Telangiectasia - A Rare
Cause of Severe Anaemia
Prachee Deshpande*, Shreepad Bhat**, Anup Karmarkar***
Hereditary Haemorrhagic Telangiectasia also known as Osler-Rendu-Weber disease is a rare autosomal
dominant disorder affecting small vessels of skin and mucosa, usually misdiagnosed because of its
non specific symptomatology. This disease usually presents as epistaxis, gastrointestinal bleeding and
visceral arteriovenous malformations. Although the epistaxis and gastrointestinal blood loss can result
in anaemia, patients with hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia rarely presents as severe anaemia. 1
Herein, we report a case of a 60 year-old man with severe anaemia resulting in congestive cardiac failure
who ultimately was diagnosed as hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia with recurrent epistaxis as a
cause of his severe anaemia.
ereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) described first in 1865 is an autosomal
dominant disorder causing abnormal capillary dilatations or connections called
telangiectasia between arterioles and venules. Vascular lesions in HHT may also present
as arteriovenous malformations (AVM), or aneurysms especially found in brain, lungs,
liver and gastro intestinal system (visceral A-V malformations). Such connections remain
usually asymptomatic and can be life threatening if get ruptured. HHT is usually not
considered early in the differential diagnosis of severe anaemia, and careful history
with careful examination is required to diagnose the disease. The diagnosis is based
on Curacao criterion 2 established in 1999 -2000 which include
1. Recurrent spontaneous nosebleeds (epistaxis)
2. Telangiectasia over skin and mucosa
3. A-V malformations affecting visceral organs
4. Affected first degree relative
Three out of four criterions are required for diagnosis. The clinical profile of HHT, a
rare disease with a classic presentation, quite rarely includes severe anaemia. Patients
with HHT present normal haemostasis and platelet function, and the recurrent bleeding
is therefore being related to the telangiectasia. The anaemia can be due to one or both
of two factors: recurrent epistaxis and gastrointestinal bleeding.
Case Report
Asst. Professor of Medicine,
Dept of Medicine, SKN Medical
College and General Hospital,
Pune; **Prof. of Medicine,
Junior Resident, Dept of
Medicines, Medical College and
General Hospital, Pune
Received: 20.05.2013;
Accepted: 11.09.2013
A 60 year old non-hypertensive male came with complaints of breathlessness on
exertion, fatigue and pedal oedema of recent onset. He also had history of recurrent
nasal bleed since many years around 2-3 days per week. Recently he had epistaxis
almost daily. For this he had consulted many general practitioners and ENT specialists
before and was given haematinics, multivitamins, nasal drops without significant
improvement in symptoms. On probing, patient admitted that some of his family
members also had recurrent epistaxis. Neither the patient nor his family members were
labelled with any specific diagnosis before this presentation. Detailed family history
Journal of the association of physicians of india • vol 62 • december, 2014
Grand Father Grand mother
Normal Male
Normal Female
Affected Male
Affected Female
Deceased Male
Deceased Female
Fig. 1 : Pedigree chart of the patient- Autosomal Dominant Inheritance pattern
Fig. 3 : Telangiectasia on tongue
Fig. 2 : Clinical Photograph - Telangiectasia on finger tips
was taken to document mode of inheritance (Pedigree
chart of patient Figure 1).
The family history clearly revealed the epistaxis
had occurred in generation in a pattern indicative of
autosomal dominant inheritance. Physical examination
revealed marked pallor, weak and sparse hair,
koilonychias, pitting bipedal oedema, raised jugular
venous pressure, congestive hepatomegaly. On careful
observation capillary telangiectasia were present on
lips, tongue, and nose and finger tips (Figures 2 and 3)
Investigations revealed Hb -2.8 gm/dl, normal
total and differential count, severe microcytosis
and hypochromia, normal platelet count. MCV -62
fl, Haematocrit-12.3%, Sr iron 15 microgram/dl and
Sr TIBC-369 microgram/dl, retic count 1.5%, This
suggested severe iron deficiency anaemia. Bleeding
and clotting time were normal.
So in view of recurrent epistaxis, autosomal
dominant nature of inheritance from pedigree, Mucocutaneous telangiectasia diagnosis of HHT was made
(Curacao criteria)
Patient was further investigated to find visceral
AVM and other possible causes for anaemia, especially
so as the patient was elderly male. USG showed mild
hepatomegaly, X-ray chest – mild cardiomegaly.
Stool occult blood was positive. CT PNS was done
Journal of the association of physicians of india • vol 62 • december, 2014
Serial dynamic imaging of ant. abd and pelvic vessels - No
abnormal tracer accumulation
Fig. 4 : Tc99 labelled RBC Scan
to rule out any abnormal AV malformation at nose
which showed no abnormal connections. MRI brain
was done to rule out intracranial AV malformation,
which also was normal. Tc 99m labelled RBC scan
was done to look for gastro intestinal tract as a source
of bleeding, but that was also negative (Figure 4).
Patient also underwent digestive tract endoscopy for
mucosal AV malformations. So the stool occult blood
was positive due to swallowed blood from epistaxis.
Bone marrow biopsy showed marrow with the changes
suggestive of severe iron deficiency anaemia. Patient
was treated with injectable iron, Vit. B12, Folic acid,
diuretics. With this patient’s general condition
improved significantly. For epistaxis, local application
of oestrogen cream was tried and cauterisation was
done. It improved partially.
We had a patient with long standing epistaxis
presenting with severe anaemia that turned to have
Hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia is a rare
disorder with prevalence of 1 in 5,000 to10000 with
autosomal dominant transmission, 3 despite the fact
that about 20% of the cases may not have a family
history. It is thought that the abnormal vessels in HHT
develop because of aberrant TGF signaling at some
stage during vascular development and mutations of
HHT-associated genes. HHT is divided in to 4 types
on genetic basis. 4 It has been proposed that in the
case of HHT, disease severity is more pronounced
in HHT1 compared to HHT2, with an earlier age of
onset for epistaxis, the appearance of telangiectasia,
and a higher incidence of pulmonary AVMs. HHT1
is caused by mutations in the gene, ENG (endoglin),
encoding endoglin on chromosome 9q. HHT2 occurs
due to mutations in the gene, ALK-1 (activin receptorlike kinase 1), encoding activin receptor-like kinase 1 on
chromosome 12q13. Results of newer studies indicate
two additional genes associated with HHT, MADH4
gene, mutated in a combined syndrome of juvenile
polyposis and HHT, and an unidentified HHT3 gene
related to chromosome. These events cause alteration
in the elastic and muscle layers of vessel walls, making
them more vulnerable to spontaneous rupture and
injuries. The clinical manifestations of HHT are known
to be variable and age-dependent. Epistaxis is the first
and the most common symptom (90% of patients),
80% of patients have telangiectasia of the skin, lip or
mouth. These usually do not cause serious illness; but
patients may have a variety of serious complications
due to vascular involvement of internal organs, such as
the gastrointestinal tract 15%, the lungs 30%, hepatic
AVMs < 30%; and the central nervous system 10%,
spinal AVMs 1%. Patients need thorough investigations
and close follow up for visceral AV malformations,
because each may contain clinically silent lesions that
can result in sudden morbidity or death. Pulmonary
AVM may present with dyspnoea, cyanosis, massive
haemoptysis, and haemothorax. For clinical relevance,
the diameter of the artery of the PAVM must be ≥
3 mm. Pulmonary AVMs cause right-to-left shunts
resulting in hypoxaemia. Furthermore, the absence
of a filtering capillary bed allows emboli to reach
the systemic circulation, which may cause recurrent
cerebral abscesses and stroke. Transarterial PAVM
vaso-occlusion with coils is currently the treatment
of choice. Cerebral AVMs can lead to headaches,
seizures, strokes, transient ischaemic attacks, and
both intracerebral and subarachnoid haemorrhage.
Gastrointestinal bleeding (common from stomach and
duodenum) can result in iron deficiency anaemia or
acute gastrointestinal haemorrhage. In the previously
mentioned 9 studies, the most common cause of severe
anaemia in patients with HHT was found to be chronic
gastrointestinal bleeding (in 70%patients)
Treatment of HHT : No definitive treatment
available so far. Appropriate management depends
on clinical manifestations, site of the disease and
remains largely symptomatic. Management options
for cutaneous lesions include electro cauterisation
with diathermy, sclerotherapy or laser therapy.
AV m a l f o r m a t i o n s n e e d i n t e r ve n t i o n e i t h e r a s
coiling or by clipping; treatment for bleeding is
symptomatic and can require iron therapy and blood
transfusions. Aspirin and other medicaments that
impair haemostasis are contraindicated in such cases.
Recent Advances : Role of Bivacizumab5
Bivacizumab is a humanised monoclonal anti-VEGF
antibody. It inhibits vascular endothelial growth
factor A(VEGF-A). VEGF-A stimulates angiogenesis in
a variety of diseases including HHT. It significantly
reduces epistaxis, causes improvement in GI blood
loss and hepatic AV-malformations in latest studies.
It is given in dose of 5 mg/kg body wt as intravenous
Journal of the association of physicians of india • vol 62 • december, 2014
infusion for four weeks. We could not give it to our
patient due to cost constraints.
It is highly unusual for HHT to be accompanied by
severe anaemia. Therefore the differential diagnosis in
cases of severe anaemia rarely includes HHT.
In summary, although HHT is a rare disease, it
needs to be suspected in a patient with recurrent
bleeding, with normal coagulation and can be easily
recognised by careful family history and close
observation for telangiectasia. Wrong diagnosis
postpones appropriate therapeutic measures and
increases the possibility of chronic complications
which can remain unrecognised till advanced stages
of the disease.
Vesna Supak, Lidija Bilic-Zulle et al.Case report of hereditary
hemorrhagic telangiectasia with severe anemia. Biochemia Medica
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telangiectasia (Rendu-Osler-Weber syndrome). Am J Med Genet
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Patho Oral Radiol Endod 2008;105:e38-e41
Bayrak-Toydemir P, McDonald J, Akarsu N, Toydemir RM, Calderon
F, Tuncali T, Tang W, Miller F, Mao R. A fourth locus for hereditary
hemorrhagic telangiectasia maps to chromosome 7. Am J Med Genet
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Prithviraj Bose, M.D., Jennifer L. Holter, M.D., George B. Selby, M.D.,
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City,
Bivacizumab in Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia. N Engl J Med
2009;360:2143-2144May14,2009DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc0901421.