This question came up on our recent online chat session and comes up frequently in phone calls and e-mails.
If lipoprotein testing is the best way to uncover hidden causes of coronary heart disease, but your doctor is unable, unknowledgeable, or unwilling to help you, then what can you do?
There are several options:
1) Get the names of physicians who will obtain and interpret the test for you. Go to the websites for the three labs that actually perform the lipoprotein tests: www.liposcience.com (NMR); www.berkeleyheartlab.com (electropheresis or GGE); www.atherotech.com (VAP or centrifugation). None of them will provide you with the names of actual physicians. They will provide you with the name of a local representative who will know who the doctors in your area who are well-acquainted with their technology. I prefer this route to just having a representative identify a laboratory in your area where the blood sample can be drawn, because you will still need a physician to interpret the results¾this is crucial. The test is of no use to you unless someone interprets it intelligently and understands the range of treatment possibilities available. Don’t be persuaded by your doctor if he/she agrees to have the blood drawn but has never seen the test before. This will be a waste of your time. That’s like hoping the kid next door can fix your car just because he says he fixed his Mom’s car once. Interpretation of lipoproteins takes time, education, and experience.
2) Seek out a lipidologist. Lipidologists are the new breed of physician who has sought out additional training and certification in lipid and lipoprotein disorders. Sometimes they’re listed in the yellow pages, or you can search online in your area.
3) Contact us. I frankly don’t like doing this because I feel that I can only provide limited information through this method. I provide a written discussion of the implications and choices for treatment with the caveat to discuss them with your doctor, since I can’t provide medical advice without a formal medical relationship. We also charge $75 for the interpretation. But it’s a lot better than nothing.
4) Make do with basic testing. Basic lipids along with a lipoprotein(a), C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, and homocysteine would provide a reasonable facsimile of lipoprotein testing. You’ll still lack small LDL and postprandial (after-eating) information, but you can still do reasonably well if you try to achieve the Track Your Plaque targets of 60-60-60.
In 20 years, this will be a lot easier. But for now, you can still obtain reasonably good results choosing one of the above alternatives.