Patients with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (hFH) are at very high risk for premature coronary heart disease. In the last decade, treatment with statins has reduced cardiovascular mortality in these patients. The aim of this study was to analyze arterial endothelial function assessed as flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) and soluble E-selectin (sE-selectin) levels in patients with hFH under a long-term lipid-lowering treatment. Twenty-five patients who completed the study received a dose of simvastatin to achieve a treatment goal of at least 30% reduction in serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol (LDL-C) for 52 weeks. Functional and biochemical measurements were taken at entry, and at week 12 and 52 of treatment. FMD was measured by vascular ultrasound of the brachial artery. sE-selectin, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-6 were determined by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). LDL-C levels were significantly reduced by treatment at week 12 and maintained at week 52 (reduction vs. baseline, 44+/-12 and 43+/-11%, respectively, P<0.0001). A significant improvement in endothelial function, measured as FMD (baseline, 4.7+/-6.2%; 12 weeks, 12.3+/-5.9%; 52 weeks, 9.7+/-4.7%; P<0.005) and a reduction in sE-selectin levels (baseline, 16.2+/-3.4 ng/ml; 12 weeks, 11.0+/-3.2 ng/ml; 52 weeks, 12.3+/-4.2 ng/ml; P<0.01) were observed. Endothelial-independent relaxation induced by nitroglycerin was not modified during the study. Our results indicate that a long-term treatment with simvastatin produced a sustained beneficial effect in endothelial function in hFH patients.