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Brief Report
May 22, 2019

Identifying Familial Hypercholesterolemia Using a Blood Donor Screening Program With More Than 1 Million Volunteer Donors

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
  • 2Carter BloodCare, Bedford, Texas
  • 3Division of Nutrition and Metabolic Diseases, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
  • 4Division of Cardiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
  • 5Division of Cardiology, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora
  • 6Division of Cardiology, Denver Health and Hospital Authority, Denver, Colorado
  • 7Department of Pathology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
  • 8Now with Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
JAMA Cardiol. Published online May 22, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2019.1518
Key Points

Question  What is the prevalence of familial hypercholesterolemia in a population of blood donors?

Findings  In this cohort study of 1 178 102 individual blood donors, 3473 individuals (or 1 of every 339) met criteria for familial hypercholesterolemia.

Meaning  Blood donation may serve as a novel method of identifying individuals with familial hypercholesterolemia.

Abstract

Importance  Familial hypercholesterolemia is an autosomal-dominant disorder that often causes premature coronary artery disease. Unfortunately, familial hypercholesterolemia remains largely undiagnosed.

Objective  To estimate the prevalence of familial hypercholesterolemia in a population of blood donors.

Design  This analysis of deidentified data from blood donors 16 years and older who donated to Carter BloodCare, one of the largest independent blood programs in the United States, between January 2002 and December 2016. Carter BloodCare, which serves a population of about 8 million in Texas, routinely measures total nonfasting serum cholesterol levels as part of a donor health screening program. Data analysis occurred from October 2017 to March 2019.

Exposure  Blood donation.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Familial hypercholesterolemia was defined using the Make Early Diagnosis to Prevent Early Death general population criteria, with total nonfasting serum cholesterol thresholds of 270, 290, 340, and 360 mg/dL for donors younger than 20 years, 20 to 29 years, 30 to 39 years, and 40 years or older, respectively (to convert cholesterol values to mmol/L, multiply by 0.0259). For repeated donors, the maximum observed total cholesterol level was used for analyses.

Results  The study included 1 178 102 individual donors with a total of 3 038 420 blood donations. Of all individual donors (median total cholesterol level, 183 [interquartile range (IQR), 157-212] mg/dL; median age, 32 [IQR, 19-47] years; 619 583 [52.6%] women), a total of 3473 individuals (or 1 in every 339) met criteria for familial hypercholesterolemia. This group had a median (IQR) total cholesterol of 332 (297-377) mg/dL. Estimated prevalence was higher at younger ages (<30 years: 1:257) compared with older ages (≥30 years: 1:469; P < .001) and in men (1:327) compared with women (1:351; P = .03). Among 2219 repeated donors who met familial hypercholesterolemia criteria at least once, 3116 of 10 833 total donations (28.8%) met FH criteria.

Conclusions and Relevance  The prevalence of familial hypercholesterolemia using the Make Early Diagnosis to Prevent Early Death criteria in a large cohort of blood donors was similar to the estimated prevalence of this disorder in the general population. The blood donor screening program could be a novel strategy to detect and notify individuals with potential familial hypercholesterolemia, particularly younger individuals in whom early detection and treatment is especially helpful, as well as guide cascade screening.

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