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Also known as: Lipoprotein little a
Formal name: Lipoprotein (a)

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

To give your doctor additional information about your risk of having a heart attack (coronary artery disease [CAD]) or stroke (cerebrovascular disease [CVD]) due to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

When to Get Tested?

When you have a family history of high Lp(a) levels and/or there is a tendency for people in your family to have heart attacks at a relatively young age; when you have heart disease but your lipid profile is not very abnormal.

Sample Required?

A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm

Test Preparation Needed?

No test preparation is needed; however, since this test may be performed at the same time as a complete lipid profile, fasting for at least 12 hours may be required.

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

Lp(a) is a type of so-called `bad’ lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are tiny particles that carry cholesterol in the bloodstream. High levels of `bad’ lipoproteins may lead to hardening of the arteries, and eventually, to heart attack, strokes and other vascular diseases.

A tendency to high Lp(a) levels runs in families. That is, a person’s Lp(a) level is due more to their genes than to factors like diet. People with severe kidney failure may also have high levels of Lp(a).

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No test preparation is needed; however, since this test may be performed at the same time as a complete lipid profile, fasting for at least 12 hours may be required.

The Test

Common Questions

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

Additional references:

Lipoprotein(a) as a cardiovascular risk factor: current status. Børge G. Nordestgaard1, M. John Chapman, Kausik Ray, Jan Boren, Felicita Andreotti , Gerald F.Watts , Henry Ginsberg, Pierre Amarenco, Alberico Catapano, Olivier S. Descamps, Edward Fisher, Petri T. ovanen, Jan Albert Kuivenhoven, Philippe Lesnik, Luis Masana, Zeljko Reiner, Marja-Riitta Taskinen, Lale Tokgozoglu, and Anne Tybjærg-Hansen, for the European Atherosclerosis Society Consensus Panel. European Heart Journal (2010) 31, 2844–2853

Lipoprotein(a): Current Perspectives. Ioanna Gouni-Berthold, Heiner K. Berthold. Current Vascular Pharmacology, 2011, 9, 682-692

2013 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Treatment of Blood Cholesterol to Reduce Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Risk in Adults. Stone NJ, Robinson J, Lichtenstein AH, Bairey Merz CN, Blum CB, Eckel RH, Goldberg AC, Gordon D, Levy D, Lloyd-Jones DM, McBride P, Schwartz JS, Shero ST, Smith SC Jr, Watson K, Wilson PWF. 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. DOI: 10.1161/01.cir.0000437738.63853.7a