Cholesterol screening and statin use in children: a literature review

Ir J Med Sci. 2019 Feb;188(1):179-188. doi: 10.1007/s11845-018-1835-9. Epub 2018 Jun 1.


Atherosclerosis begins in childhood. Fatty streaks, the earliest precursor of atherosclerotic lesions, have been found in the coronary arteries of children of 2 years of age. Hypercholesterolaemia is a risk factor for coronary artery disease. Hypercholesterolaemia can be either primary, when it is characteristic of the main disease, or secondary when it occurs as a result of either a disease process or drug treatment. Given the risk of vascular disease, including myocardial infarction (MI), cerebrovascular accidents (CVA, also known as strokes), peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and ruptured aortic aneurysm, which may follow atherosclerosis, it is important to prevent or slow the early development of atherosclerotic lesions. This prevention necessitates the control of key risk factors such hypercholesterolaemia, dyslipidaemia, hypertension etc. However, at what point this prevention ought to occur, and in what form, is uncertain. Using pharmacological primary prevention for hypercholesterolaemia in the paediatric population is controversial. In an adult patient, hypercholesterolaemia warrants the initiation of a statin. Statins, also known as hydroxymethylglutaryl co-enzyme A inhibitors (or HMG-CoA inhibitors) act by altering cholesterol metabolism. In the paediatric population, the clinical course of vascular disease and the effect of altering this clinical course are less certain. This article reviews the published literature on hypercholesterolaemia in children and the use of statins as a treatment for dyslipidaemia in children. The US National Cholesterol Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents 2012 guidelines (NCEP guidelines) regarding the recognition and treatment of childhood dyslipidaemia are reviewed.

Keywords: Cholesterol; Dyslipidaemia; Hypercholesterolaemia; Paediatrics; Statins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Atherosclerosis / complications
  • Atherosclerosis / therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / therapy
  • Hyperlipidemias / therapy
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Mass Screening*
  • Pediatrics
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Primary Prevention


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Lipids