Reliability of calculated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol

Jeffrey W. Meeusen, Christine L. Snozek, Nikola A. Baumann, Allan S. Jaffe, Amy K. Saenger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Aggressive low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C)-lowering strategies are recommended for prevention of cardiovascular events in high-risk populations. Guidelines recommend a 30% to 50% reduction in at-risk patients even when LDL-C concentrations are between 70 and 130 mg/dl (1.8 to 3.4 mmol/L). However, calculation of LDL-C by the Friedewald equation is the primary laboratory method for routine LDL-C measurement. We compared the accuracy and reproducibility of calculated LDL-C <130 mg/dl (3.4 mmol/L) to LDL-C measured by β quantification (considered the gold standard method) in 15,917 patients with fasting triglyceride concentrations <400 mg/dl (4.5 mmol/L). Both variation and bias of calculated LDL-C increased at lower values of measured LDL-C. The 95% confidence intervals for a calculated LDL-C of 70 mg/dl (1.8 mmol/L) and 30 mg/dl (0.8 mmol/L) were 60 to 86 mg/dl (1.6 to 2.2 mmol/L) and 24 to 60 mg/dl (0.6 to 1.6 mmol/L), respectively. Previous recommendations have emphasized the requirement for a fasting sample with triglycerides <400 mg/dl (4.5 mmol/L) to calculate LDL-C by the Friedewald equation. However, no recommendations have addressed the appropriate lower reportable limit for calculated LDL-C. In conclusion, calculated LDL-C <30 mg/dl (0.8 mmol/L) should not be reported because of significant deviation from the gold standard measured LDL-C results, and caution is advised when using calculated LDL-CF values <70 mg/dl (1.8 mmol/L) to make treatment decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-540
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Journal of Cardiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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