Familial hypercholesterolemia carries a marked increase in the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), but there is considerable variation between individuals in susceptibility to CHD. To investigate the possible role of lipoprotein(a) as a risk factor for CHD, we studied the association between serum lipoprotein(a) levels, genetic types of apolipoprotein(a) (which influence lipoprotein(a) levels), and CHD in 115 patients with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. The median lipoprotein(a) level in the 54 patients with CHD was 57 mg per deciliter, which is significantly higher than the corresponding value of 18 mg per deciliter in the 61 patients without CHD. According to discriminant-function analysis, the lipoprotein(a) level was the best discriminator between the two groups (as compared with all other lipid and lipoprotein levels, age, sex, and smoking status). Phenotyping for apolipoprotein(a) was performed in 109 patients. The frequencies of the apolipoprotein(a) phenotypes and alleles differed significantly between the patients with and those without CHD. The allele LpS2, which is associated with high lipoprotein(a) levels, was found more frequently among the patients with CHD (0.33 vs. 0.12). In contrast, the LpS4 allele, which is associated with low lipoprotein(a) levels, was more frequent among those without CHD (0.27 vs. 0.15). We conclude that an elevated level of lipoprotein(a) is a strong risk factor for CHD in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, and the increase in risk is independent of age, sex, smoking status, and serum levels of total cholesterol, triglyceride, or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. The higher level of lipoprotein(a) observed in the patients with CHD is the result of genetic influence.