Familial hypercholesterolaemia

Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2017 Dec 7:3:17093. doi: 10.1038/nrdp.2017.93.


Familial hypercholesterolaemia is a common inherited disorder characterized by abnormally elevated serum levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from birth, which in time can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD). Most cases are caused by autosomal dominant mutations in LDLR, which encodes the LDL receptor, although mutations in other genes coding for proteins involved in cholesterol metabolism or LDLR function and processing, such as APOB and PCSK9, can also be causative, although less frequently. Several sets of diagnostic criteria for familial hypercholesterolaemia are available; common diagnostic features are an elevated LDL cholesterol level and a family history of hypercholesterolaemia or (premature) CVD. DNA-based methods to identify the underlying genetic defect are desirable but not essential for diagnosis. Cascade screening can contribute to early diagnosis of the disease in family members of an affected individual, which is crucial because familial hypercholesterolaemia can be asymptomatic for decades. Clinical severity depends on the nature of the gene that harbours the causative mutation, among other factors, and is further modulated by the type of mutation. Lifelong LDL cholesterol-lowering treatment substantially improves CVD-free survival and longevity. Statins are the first-line therapy, but additional drugs, such as ezetimibe, bile acid sequestrants, PCSK9 inhibitors and other emerging therapies, are often required.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol, LDL / adverse effects
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Coronary Artery Disease / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Hypercholesterolemia / genetics
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / complications*
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / diagnosis*
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / physiopathology


  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors