Background: The implementation of treatment guidelines is lacking worldwide.
Objectives: To examine whether follow-up in a specialized lipid clinic improves the achievement rate of the treatment guidelines, as formulated by the National Cholesterol Education Program and the Sixth Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure.
Methods: The study group included patients who were referred to the lipid clinic because of hyperlipidemia. At each of five visits over a 12 month period, lipid levels, liver and creatine kinase levels, body mass index, and adherence to diet and medications were measured, and achievement of the NCEP target level was assessed.
Results: A total of 1,133 patients (mean age 61.3 years, 60% males) were studied. Additional risk factors for atherosclerosis included hypertension (41%), type II diabetes mellitus (21%), smoking (17%), and a positive family history of coronary artery disease (32%). All patients had evidence of atherosclerotic vascular disease (coronary, cerebrovascular or peripheral vascular diseases). The low density lipoprotein target of <100 mg was present in only 22% of patients before enrollment, with improvement of up to 57% after the follow-up period. During follow-up, blood pressure control was improved (from 38% at the time of referral to 88% after 12 months, P < 0.001), as was glycemic control in diabetic patients (HgA1C improved from 8.2% to 7.1% after 12 months, P < 0.001). Improved risk factor control was due to increased compliance to medication treatment (from 66% at enrollment to more than 90% after 12 months), as well as careful attention to risk factor management that translated into a change in the treatment profile during the follow-up. There was an increase in the use of the following medications: aspirin from 68% to 96%, statins from 42% to 88%, beta blockers from 20% to 40%, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors from 28% to 42%; while calcium channel blocker use decreased from 40% to 30% in patients during follow-up.
Conclusion: Follow-up of patients in a specialized clinic enhances the achievement of LDL-cholesterol treatment goals as well as other risk factor treatment goals, due to increased patient compliance and increased use of medications.