SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), an autosomal dominantly inherited disorder characterised by elevated plasma low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, tendon xanthomata and premature ischaemic heart disease, is amenable to treatment with modern medication. The clinical and biochemical details of 1 031 patients with FH were analysed. FH is the most common monogenic disorder of lipoprotein metabolism presenting to the Lipid Clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital, accounting for about 20% of consultations. The hospital classified 55% of the FH patients as white, 43% as coloured, 1.5% as Asian and 0.5% as black. In the FH cohort (whose mean age at presentation was 44 years), 80% had tendon xanthomata, 36% had arcus cornealis, and 14% had xanthelasma. Tendon xanthomata was present in almost 90% of patients by the age of 50 years. Arcus cornealis was present in about 45% by the age of 40 years, further increasing in frequency with age. Cardiovascular complications included ischaemic heart disease (43%), stroke (1.5%), transient ischaemic attacks (1.3%), and peripheral vascular disease (3.7%). The mean age of death was 55 (±13) years; 51 (±10) years in men and 61 (±12) years in women. In 46% of the cohort, a defective gene was identified by testing for locally prevalent mutations.