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Atherosclerosis. 1993 Dec;104(1-2):37-46.

The relation of atherosclerotic lesions to antemortem and postmortem lipid levels: the Bogalusa Heart Study.

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Division of Nutrition, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30341-3724.


Although postmortem lipid levels have been used as surrogates for levels during life, it is uncertain whether atherosclerotic lesions are related similarly to antemortem and postmortem lipid values. In a sample of 23 children and young adults who had been examined for cardiovascular disease risk factors and subsequently died from violent causes, we examined the relation of (a) postmortem lipid levels to values obtained 1 to 14 years earlier, and (b) atherosclerotic lesions to antemortem and postmortem lipid levels. Postmortem levels of triglycerides and very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDLC) were higher than levels during life, but postmortem levels of total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLC) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLC) were related to antemortem levels (rs > 0.40). After excluding eight persons who likely received large volumes of intravenous fluids before death, the within-person variability between antemortem and postmortem levels of LDLC and HDLC was similar to the antemortem variability. Furthermore, the relation of atherosclerotic lesions to antemortem and postmortem lipid levels differed only slightly for TC, LDLC and HDLC. In contrast, lesions in the coronary arteries showed the strongest association with antemortem VLDLC levels, but were not associated with postmortem VLDLC levels. Despite the very small number of subjects, our results suggest that if intravenous fluids are not administered before death, postmortem levels of TC, LDLC and HDLC are fairly representative of levels during life. Postmortem levels of VLDLC or triglycerides, however, should not be used as surrogates for antemortem levels.

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