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Screens pick up family lipid cases

New research shows a primary care screening programme could be used to identify patients at risk of familial hyper-cholesterolaemia, the vast majority of whom are currently unknown to GPs.

Researchers checked records to find patients on statins or with high cholesterol, ischaemic heart disease or a lipid disorder, they report in a Heart early online paper.

Of 400 patients identified, a scoring system based on details in their notes identified 12 patients with the condition – eight who were likely to have it, and 47 possible diagnoses.Study leader Dr Jeremy Gray, director of the research group at Wandsworth Primary Care Research Centre, said the vast majority of individuals with familial hypercholesterolaemia in the UK had not been identified.

'We have shown that cases of familial hypercholesterolaemia can be found in primary care and that it is practical to do so starting with a small number of computer searches followed by a review of the written record.'

'It might be feasible to extend this method throughout the NHS, but this work needs to be repeated in a larger sample of practices.'

Many of the cases were previously unknown to the practice and the local lipid clinic, and the researchers said all of them were potential new index cases for tracing relatives.

After narrowing down the candidates with an initial computer search, they calculated that 20 sets of notes needed to be searched to find one case of definite or probable familial hypercholesterolaemia.

A pilot of screening of families for the condition is currently been carried out by the Department of Health.

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