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Ther Apher. 1997 Aug;1(3):260-70.

The retardation of progression, stabilization, and regression of coronary and carotid atherosclerosis by low-density lipoprotein apheresis in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia.

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  • 1Koga Hospital, Kurume City, Japan.


The long-term effects of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) apheresis (LA) on the progression and regression of atherosclerosis were evaluated by angiographic and pathological findings as well as ultrasonography based studies, and the clinical significance of the treatment was evaluated. We studied 11 patients with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), 2 with homozygous FH and 9 with severe heterozygous FH who received combined LA and drug therapy for a mean of 7.7 years. During the treatment period, the mean time-averaged level of LDL cholesterol was 181+/-52 mg/dl. According to the coronary angiographic results, 3 patients showed regression, 6 patients showed progression, and 2 patients showed no change. Cardiac events occurred in 6 patients. We pathologically examined at autopsy the coronary arteries of 1 FH patient who had received long-term LA therapy before death. The results revealed the process of scarring of atheromatous plaque, suggesting pathological regression correlated with the angiographic regression shown in serial angiograms taken during LA treatment. It was further suggested that the formation of an eccentric thick end wall lesion rich in collagen fiber prevented atheromatous plaque from tearing off. However, the annual progression rate of the mean maximal intima-media thickness in the common carotid artery was 0.0002 mm/year in the LA group, which was significantly lower than the mean of 0.251 mm/year seen in the control group (drug therapy only group). In the patients with heterozygous FH (9 patients), the annual progression rate was lowered to 0.0023 mm/year, suggesting regression. The findings of the present study indicate that patients with severe FH refractory to drug treatment may benefit from more aggressive cholesterol lowering treatments such as LA combined with cholesterol lowering drug therapy. The progression of atherosclerosis may be prevented, plaque may be stabilized (regressed), and clinical events may be reduced as seen with patients with non-FH hypercholesterolemia.

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