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Lipoprotein-a

Definition

Lipoproteins are molecules made of proteins and fat. They carry cholesterol and similar substances through the blood.

A blood test can be done to measure a specific type of lipoprotein called lipoprotein-a, or Lp(a). A high level of Lp(a) is considered a risk factor for heart disease.

Alternative Names

Lp(a)

How the test is performed

A blood sample is needed.

How to prepare for the test

You will be asked not to eat anything for 12 hours before the test.

Do not smoke before the test.

How the test will feel

A needle is inserted to draw blood. You may feel moderate pain, or only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the test is performed

High levels of lipoproteins can increase the risk of heart disease. The test is done to check your risk of atherosclerosis, stroke, and heart attack.

Normal Values

Normal values are below 30 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter).

Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

The example above shows the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.

What abnormal results mean

Higher than normal values of Lp(a) are associated with a high risk for atherosclerosis, stroke, and heart attack.

What the risks are

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

Special considerations

Lp(a) measurements may provide more detail about your risk for heart disease, but the added value of this test beyond a lipid panel is unknown.

References

Genest J, Libby P. Lipoprotein disorders and cardiovascular disease. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA:Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 47.

Semenkovich, CF. Disorders of lipid metabolism. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 213.


Review Date: 6/4/2012
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc. David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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