Levels of small, dense low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (sdLDL) particles determined by several analytic procedures have been associated with risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). This review focuses on the clinical significance of sdLDL measurement.
Results of multiple prospective studies have supported earlier evidence that higher levels of sdLDL are significantly associated with greater ASCVD risk, in many cases independent of other lipid and ASCVD risk factors as well as levels of larger LDL particles. A number of properties of sdLDL vs. larger LDL, including reduced LDL receptor affinity and prolonged plasma residence time as well as greater oxidative susceptibility and affinity for arterial proteoglycans, are consistent with their heightened atherogenic potential. Nevertheless, determination of the extent to which sdLDL can preferentially impact ASCVD risk compared with other apoprotein B-containing lipoproteins has been confounded by their metabolic interrelationships and statistical collinearity, as well as differences in analytic procedures and definitions of sdLDL.
A growing body of data points to sdLDL concentration as a significant determinant of ASCVD risk. Although future studies should be aimed at determining the clinical benefit of reducing sdLDL levels, there is sufficient evidence to warrant consideration of sdLDL measurement in assessing and managing risk of cardiovascular disease.

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