The Nation's Health + [Lipoprotein(a)]

Lipoprotein(a): Confusion about Lp(a)

Since the recent reader question about Lp(a), I've had several other instances of confusion over Lp(a).

To help you navigate through some of the often confusing issues behind this complex genetic abnormality, here are some common sense rules to follow. When you ask your doctor to draw a Lp(a), try to be certain that:

--the same laboratory is always used. Just going from lab to lab can account for huge variation in Lp(a). As standardization proceeds internationally, this will be become less important. But in 2006, it's still an issue.

--you and your doctor resist the temptation to check Lp(a) frequently. I saw a patient recently who was having Lp(a) levels nearly every month. This is pointless. Lp(a) changes very slowly. Checking it frequently will not allow any treatment to be fully reflected. All you'll observe is random variation that can be frustrating. We wait at least 6 months before re-checking after a new treatment is introduced.

If you have a choice, I would recommend you opt for the measure provided by Liposcience (NMR). The technique they use is a particle count measure, rather than a weight-based measure. This may be more accurate, particularly when Lp(a) is small.

Lp(a) remains among the more difficult patterns to understand and correct. Don't be surprised if you encounter a lot of confusion from your doctor, as well. You may end up providing much of his/her education.