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

Candace L. Jackson, James Z. Keeton, Stephen J. Eason, Zahid A. Ahmad, Colby R Ayers, M. Odette Gore, Darren K. McGuire, Merlyn H. Sayers, Amit Khera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


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 1178102 individual donors with a total of 3038420 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; 619583 [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 10833 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-689
Number of pages5
JournalJAMA Cardiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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