204. Guidelines: 2021 ESC Cardiovascular Prevention – Question #10 with Dr. Eileen Handberg


The following question refers to Section 4.6 of the  2021 ESC CV Prevention Guidelines. The question is asked by student Dr. Shivani Reddy, answered first by NP Carol Patrick, and then by expert faculty Dr. Eileen Handberg.

Dr. Handberg is an Adult Nurse Practitioner, Professor of Medicine, and Director of the Cardiovascular Clinical Trials Program in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Florida. She has served as Chair of the Cardiovascular Team Section and the Board of Trustees with the ACC and is the President Elect for the PCNA.

The CardioNerds Decipher The Guidelines Series for the 2021 ESC CV Prevention Guidelines represents a collaboration with the ACC Prevention of CVD Section, the National Lipid Association, and Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association.

Ms. DW is a 67-year-old woman with a history of coronary artery disease and prior percutaneous coronary intervention in 2019 with a drug-eluting stent to the proximal left anterior descending artery. They have transitioned to your clinic from a previous provider, and their LDL is 134 mg/dL. What would be the ESC recommended goal LDL-C level for this patient? 

A. <30 mg/dL
B. <55 mg/dL
C. <70 mg/dL
D. <100 mg/dL

The correct answer is B.

The ESC guidelines outline a robust LDL-C reduction goal of <55mg/dL (<1.4mmol/L) and ≥50% reduction from baseline in those with known atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, with the highest possible Class I (LOE A) recommendation for this goal. A goal LDL-C <55mg/dL with ≥50% reduction from baseline should also be considered in apparently healthy persons <70 years of age who are at very high risk (Class IIa, LOE C). 

To achieve these goals, the guidelines recommend a stepwise approach to treatment including dietary, lifestyle, and medical management. Recognizing that lower LDL-C is better, the guidelines recommend liberal intensification of treatment especially if using submaximal doses of generic or low-cost statins and side effects are not apparent. High-intensity statin is recommended to be prescribed to the highest tolerated dose to reach LDL-C goals set for each specific risk group (Class I, LOE A). If these goals are not achieved with the maximum tolerated dose of a statin, combination therapy with ezetimibe is recommended (Class I, LOE B).

Choice A is incorrect. An LDL-C <30mg/dL is a more significant reduction than that recommended by the guidelines, even for patients with known ASCVD. Notably, for patients with ASCVD who experience a second vascular event within 2 years while taking maximum tolerated statin-based therapy, an LDL-C goal of <1.0 mmol/L (40 mg/dL) may be considered.

Choice C is incorrect. The ESC prevention guidelines recommend considering a goal of <70mg/dL for patients in the primary prevention setting at high risk who are <70 years of age (Class IIa, LOE C). (Recall again that for those at very high risk the primary prevention recommendation is target LDL-C <55 mg/dL).

Choice D is incorrect. LDL-C <100mg/dL was a frequently cited goal in older iterations of various prevention and lipid guidelines. As the data has shifted to support lower LDL-C goals, this is not a noted goal within the 2021 ESC prevention guidelines for patients <70 years of age.

Main Takeaway

Lower is better when it comes to LDL-C

For those with known atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, liberal intensification of lipid lowering treatment is recommended. 

Guideline Location

Section, page 3276-3279, Figure 6 on page 3252, Figure 7 on page 3253

204. Guidelines: 2021 ESC Cardiovascular Prevention – Question #10 with Dr. Eileen Handberg
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