How do physicians interpret risk marker results? Assuming the laboratory offers, and physicians order, cardiovascular risk marker tests, how are these results actually used?
The National Cholesterol Education Program periodically assembles scientists and physicians to create lipid treatment guidelines for patients. These panels are referred to as the Adult Treatment Panel (ATP). The third assembly of the ATP did not give specific guidelines regarding risk marker use in patients but they did acknowledge their potential utility. A new 4th version of the ATP guidelines is due to come out in 2014.
The general consensus is that novel cardiovascular risk markers should be used in selected patients, such as those who already have significant risk factors (hypertension, smoking, obesity, etc.) or in patients who have family histories of cardiovascular disease. The value in using risk markers is that they will not only uncover cardiovascular risk but they can also be used to motivate patients to alter lifestyle and diet. It is expected that as these emerging cardiovascular risk markers continue to be validated in clinical studies, they will become very useful and perhaps even be part of a new standard of care for patients.
If risk marker levels can be correlated to treatment strategies, physicians will find them especially useful in tracking patient success.