MRI at 3 Tesla detects no evidence for ischemic brain damage in intensively treated patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia
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Homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is considered a model disease for excessive plasma cholesterol levels. Patients with untreated homozygous FH have a markedly increased risk for premature atherosclerosis. The frequency and extent of ischemic brain damage detectable by high-field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) after long-term intensive treatment are unknown.
In a case control study, five patients with homozygous FH (one male and four females; mean age: 23.6 ± 9.2, range: 12–36 years; mean pre-treatment serum total cholesterol level: 26.9 ± 3.24 mmol/L; all patients with documented atherosclerotic plaques in the carotid arteries) and five age- and sex-matched healthy controls were studied. All patients had been on maximal lipid-lowering medication since early childhood, and four of them were also on treatment with low-density lipoprotein (LDL) apheresis at bi-weekly intervals. Brain MRI was performed at 3 Tesla field strength with fluid-attenuated T2-weighted inversion recovery and T1-weighted spin-echo MR pulse sequences and subsequently evaluated by two independent readers.
The maximal lipid-lowering treatment reduced the total serum cholesterol by more than 50% in the patients, but their serum concentrations were still 3.6-fold higher than those found in the controls (11.9 ± 4.2 vs. 4.5 ± 0.5 mmol/L; p < 0.0047). No brain abnormality was observed in any of the patients with homozygous FH.
Homozygous FH patients on intensive cholesterol-lowering therapy have no evidence of ischemic brain damage at 3 Tesla MRI despite the remaining high cholesterol levels.
KeywordsBrain infarction Dementia Homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia Magnetic resonance imaging White matter lesions
Conflict of interest statement
Declan O’Regan receives a PhD stipend from Schering Health Care UK.
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