BACKGROUND: Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is an autosomal co-dominant disorder which is relatively common, leads to high levels of LDL-cholesterol and if untreated to early coronary heart disease. An audit of current practice at National Health Service Trusts in England was undertaken to determine whether FH patients meet the diagnostic criteria for FH; are being offered appropriate advice and treatment; and to what extent their families are contacted and offered testing for the disorder. METHODS: Medical records of known FH patients (over 18 years of age and diagnosed before 31 December 2003) were accessed to obtain information on diagnosis, treatment and family tracing. RESULTS: The records of 733 FH patients were examined, 79% met the UK 'Simon Broome' register criteria for the diagnosis of definite or possible FH. Analyses showed that patients were usually offered appropriate advice and treatment, with 89% being on a statin. However, the audit indicated a high variability in family tracing between the sites, with significant differences in the frequency of inclusion of a family pedigree in the notes (range 1-71%, mean 35%); the general practitioner (GP) being advised that first-degree relatives should be tested (range 4-52%, mean 27%); and the proportion of relatives contacted and tested (range 6-50%, mean 32%). CONCLUSION: FH patients are well cared for in lipid clinics in England, are being given appropriate lifestyle advice and medication, but an increase in recording of LDL-cholesterol levels may lead to improvements in their management. Practice in family tracing appears to vary widely between clinics.
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