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CMAJ. 1997 Feb 15;156(4):489-96.

Cholesterol screening of children at high risk: behavioural and psychological effects.

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  • 1Department of Family Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Que.



To assess the behavioural and psychosocial effects of screening asymptomatic children at high risk for hyperlipidemia.


Observational study involving prospective longitudinal and cross-sectional portions.


Two tertiary care pediatric lipid clinics in Montreal.


Longitudinal portion: all children aged 4 to 17 years who presented for screening at the lipid clinics between April 1990 and June 1991. Of the 56 eligible children 52 (93%) (and their mothers) agreed to participate, 34 with hyperlipidemia (case subjects) and 18 without hyperlipidemia (control subjects). Thirty-five children (67%) completed 3 assessments over 12 months. Cross-sectional portion: all children aged 4 to 17 years in whom hyperlipidemia had been diagnosed 2 to 5 years earlier at one of the lipid clinics. Of the 58 eligible children 48 (83%) (and their mothers) participated.


For children, mean scores on the Child Behavior Checklist (Behavior Problems subscale) (CBCL), the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children (STAIC); for mothers, mean scores on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).


In the longitudinal portion of the study, there was no significant difference between the case and control subjects in the mean CDI or STAIC scores at 1 or 12 months. At 1 month after diagnosis the case subjects in the longitudinal portion had a significantly higher mean CBCL score than the children in the cross-sectional component (p = 0.01). With the control group as the reference group, the adjusted odds ratios for a high CBCL score (greater than 62) for the case subjects were 15.5 (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.4 to 99.8) at 1 month and 15.8 (95% CI 1.1 to 223.4) at 12 months. The corresponding values for the children in the cross-sectional component were 1.3 (95% CI 0.3 to 6.2) and 5.0 (95% CI 0.5 to 50.9).


The observed behavioural problems in children with a recent diagnosis of hyperlipidemia were independent of other risk factors, such as age and sex of child and mother's age and BDI score. Our results suggest that identification of hyperlipidemia in children may have harmful psychological effects in the families involved. This evidence strengthens arguments for the exclusion of cholesterol measurement from the periodic health examination of children at moderately high risk.

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