Purpose of this review: This review provides an update on recent advances in the diagnosis and management of children with familial hypercholesterolemia.
Recent findings: A large cross-sectional cohort study of paediatric familial hypercholesterolemia demonstrated that affected children had a 5-fold more rapid increase of carotid arterial wall intima-media thickness during childhood years than their affected siblings. This faster progression led to a significant deviation in terms of intima-media thickness from the age of 12 years and onwards. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol was a strong and independent predictor of carotid artery intima-media thickness in these children, which confirms the pivotal role of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol for the development of atherosclerosis. In this condition lipid lowering by statin therapy is accompanied by carotid intima-media thickness regression in familial-hypercholesterolemic children, which suggests that initiation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol-reducing medication in childhood already can inhibit or possibly reduce the faster progression of atherosclerosis. Furthermore, these trials demonstrated that statins are safe and do not impair growth or sexual development in these children. Conversely, products containing plant sterols reduced low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels by 14%, but did not improve endothelial dysfunction as assessed by flow-mediated dilatation.
Summary: Children with familial hypercholesterolemia clearly benefit from lipid-lowering strategies. Statins are safe agents and have been proven to reduce elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels significantly. In addition, statins improve surrogate markers for atherosclerosis. Therefore these agents should become the pivotal therapy in children with familial hypercholesterolemia.