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MP 2.04.24 High-Density Lipoprotein Subclass Testing in the Diagnosis and Management of Cardiovascular Disease

Medical Policy    
Section
Medicine
Original Policy Date
5/31/01
Last Review Status/Date
Reviewed with literature search/4:2009
Issue
4:2009
  Return to Medical Policy Index

Disclaimer

Our medical policies are designed for informational purposes only and are not an authorization, or an explanation of benefits, or a contract.  Receipt of benefits is subject to satisfaction of all terms and conditions of the coverage.  Medical technology is constantly changing, and we reserve the right to review and update our policies periodically.

 


 

Description

A large body of epidemiologic literature has demonstrated an inverse relationship between levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and cardiovascular risk, indicating that HDL may have a protective role against cardiovascular disease. HDL particles exhibit considerable heterogeneity, and it has been proposed that various subclasses of HDL may have a greater role in protection from atherosclerosis. Particles of HDL can be characterized based on size/density, and/or on the apolipoprotein composition. Using size/density, HDL can be classified into HDL-2, the larger, less dense particles that may have the greatest degree of cardioprotection, and HDL-3, which are smaller, more dense particles. HDL contains 2 associated apolipoproteins, i.e., AI and A2. HDL particles can also be classified on whether they contain apolipoprotein A-1 only or whether they contain both apolipoprotein A-1 and A-2. There has been substantial interest in determining whether subclasses of HDL can be used to provide additional information on cardiovascular risk compared to HDL alone.

An alternative to measuring the concentration of subclasses of HDL, such as HDL2 and HDL3, is direct measurement of HDL particle size and/or number. Particle size can be measured by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy or by gradient-gel electrophoresis. HDL particle numbers can be measured by NMR spectroscopy. Several commercial labs offer these measurements of HDL particle size and number.
More recently, measurement of apo A-I has used measurement of HDL particle number as a surrogate, based on the premise that each HDL particle contains one apo A-I molecule. Direct measurement of apo A-I has been proposed as more accurate than the traditional use of HDL level in evaluation of the cardioprotective, or “good,” cholesterol. In addition, the ratio of apo B/apo A-I has been proposed as a superior measure of the ratio of proatherogenic (i.e., “bad”) cholesterol to anti-atherogenic (i.e., “good”) cholesterol.

Traditional lipid risk factors such as total HDL and low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), while predictive on a population basis, are weaker markers of risk on an individual basis. Only a minority of subjects with elevated LDL and cholesterol levels will develop clinical disease, and up to 50% of cases of coronary artery disease (CAD) occur in subjects with “normal” levels of total and LDL cholesterol. Thus, there is considerable potential to improve the accuracy of current cardiovascular risk prediction models.

 


 

Policy

Subclassification of high-density lipoproteins is considered investigational in the screening, diagnosis, and management of cardiovascular disease.

 


 

Policy Guidelines

There is no CPT code for subclassification that is specific to high-density lipoprotein (HDL). CPT code 82664 (electrophoretic technique, not otherwise specified) or 83701 (lipoprotein, blood; high resolution fractionation and quantitation of lipoproteins including lipoprotein subclasses when performed [e.g., electrophoresis, ultracentrifugation]) may be used.

There is a CPT code for lipoprotein particle number and subclass quantification by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy that is also not specific to HDL:
83704: Lipoprotein, blood; quantification of lipoprotein particle numbers and lipoprotein particle subclasses (e.g., by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy)

 


 

Benefit Application

BlueCard/National Account Issues

HDL subclassification may be included as a component of a comprehensive cardiovascular risk assessment offered by reference laboratories. Comprehensive risk assessment may include evaluation of small low-density lipoproteins, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, evaluation of apolipoprotein E genotype or phenotype, total plasma homocysteine, apolipoprotein B, and lipoprotein(a). (These components are addressed separately in policy Nos. 2.04.12 and 2.04.202.04.25.) The lack of a specific CPT code may make identification of claims for HDL subclassification difficult. However, HDL subclassification as part of cardiovascular risk assessment is likely when CPT code 82664 is submitted from a reference laboratory in conjunction with CPT codes 82172 (used to code for apolipoprotein B and lipoprotein[a]), CPT code 84181 (used to code for apolipoprotein E phenotyping), CPT code 86141 (used to code for high-sensitivity C-reactive protein), CPT code 83090 (homocysteine), and CPT code 85716 (used to code for small, low-density LDL.).

 


 

Rationale

A large number of prospective observational studies have examined the relationship between high-density lipoprotein (HDL) subclass and cardiovascular risk. A representative sample of some of the most salient studies is discussed below.The Apolipoprotein-Related Mortality Risk Study (ARMORIS) followed up 175,000 Swedish men and women for 5.5 years (1) and reported that decreased apolipoprotein A-I (apo A-I) was an independent predictor of coronary artery disease (CAD) events. The Air Force/Texas Coronary Atherosclerosis Prevention Study (AFCAPS/TexCAPS) investigated lipid parameters among 6,605 men and women with average low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and low HDL cholesterol who were randomized to receive either lovastatin or placebo (2). This study also reported that levels of apo A-I, as well as the ratio of apo B/apo A-I, were strong predictors of CAD events. In the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, both total HDL-C and levels of HDL-2 had significant independent associations with risk of acute myocardial infarction (3). The Quebec Cardiovascular Study investigated the association of HDL-2 and HDL-3 subclasses with ischemic heart disease in a subsample of 944 French-Canadian men participating in the larger trial (4). During the 10-year follow-up, levels of HDL-2 were statistically significant as independent predictors of CAD events, but the difference in predictive value with and without HDL subclasses was not considered clinically significant.

The Apolipoprotein-Related Mortality Risk Study (ARMORIS) followed up 175,000 Swedish men and women for 5.5 years (1) and reported that decreased apolipoprotein A-I (apo A-I) was an independent predictor of coronary artery disease (CAD) events. The Air Force/Texas Coronary Atherosclerosis Prevention Study (AFCAPS/TexCAPS) investigated lipid parameters among 6,605 men and women with average low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and low HDL cholesterol who were randomized to receive either lovastatin or placebo (2). This study also reported that levels of apo A-I, as well as the ratio of apo B/apo A-I, were strong predictors of CAD events. In the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, both total HDL-C and levels of HDL-2 had significant independent associations with risk of acute myocardial infarction (3). The Quebec Cardiovascular Study investigated the association of HDL-2 and HDL-3 subclasses with ischemic heart disease in a subsample of 944 French-Canadian men participating in the larger trial (4). During the 10-year follow-up, levels of HDL-2 were statistically significant as independent predictors of CAD events, but the difference in predictive value with and without HDL subclasses was not considered clinically significant.

The Copenhagen City Heart Study (5) was a prospective cohort study of 9,231 asymptomatic persons from the Danish general population. The apo B/apo A-I ratio was reported to be an independent predictor of cardiovascular events, with a hazard ratio similar to that for total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol. This study also compared the discriminatory ability of the apo B/apo A-I ratio with that of traditional lipid measures, with use of the area under the curve (AUC) for classifying cardiovascular events. The apo B/apo A-I ratio had a slightly higher AUC when compared to total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio (0.59 vs. 0.58), but this difference was not statistically significant.

Clarke and colleagues (6) published a prospective cohort study of 7,044 elderly men enrolled in the Whitehall Cardiovascular Cohort from London, England. Measurements of apolipoprotein levels were performed on 5,344 of these individuals, and patients were followed up for a mean of 6.8 years. The authors reported that the apo B/apo A-I ratio was also a significant independent predictor (hazard ratio [HR] 1.54; 95% CI: 1.27–1.87), with similar predictive ability compared to the total cholesterol/HDL ratio (HR 1.57; 95% CI: 1.32– 1.86).

The addition of the apo B/apo A-I ratio to the Framingham risk model (7) resulted in a statistically significant improvement in predictive value for cardiovascular events (AUC 0.594 vs. AUC 0.613; p <001). However, the authors concluded that this increment in predictive value was likely to be of little clinical value. This same study also reported the predictive ability of apo A-II in a separate publication. In this analysis, individuals with apo A-II levels in the highest quartile had a decreased risk of cardiovascular events compared to those in the lowest quartile (adjusted OR 0.62; 95% CI: 0.43– 0.90).

A nested case-control study (8), performed within the larger EPIC-Norfolk cohort study, evaluated the predictive ability of apo B/apo A-I in relation to traditional lipid measures. The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Norfolk (EPIC-Norfolk) study is a cohort study of 25,663 patients from Norfolk, U.K. The case control substudy enrolled 869 patients who had developed CAD during a mean follow-up of 6 years, and 1,511 control patients without CAD. The authors reported that the apo B/apo A-I ratio was an independent predictor of cardiovascular events after controlling for traditional lipid risk factors and the Framingham risk score (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.85; 95% CI: 1.15–2.98). However, the authors also reported that this ratio was no better than total cholesterol/HDL ratio for discriminating between cases and controls (AUC 0.673 vs. 0.670; p =0.38).

In a separate publication from the EPIC-Norfolk study, El Harchaoui et al. (9) measured HDL particle size and number using NMR spectroscopy and gradient gel electrophoresis. The authors reported numerous multivariate regression models, controlling for various combinations of other lipid measures. HDL particle number was an independent predictor of CAD risk in all of the models reported. HDL particle size was an independent predictor in some models, but significance was lost when apo B was included as a covariate.

In contrast, some studies have not reported HDL subclassification to be an independent predictor of CAD. A large prospective cohort study, the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, followed 12,000 middle-aged individuals free of CAD at baseline for 10 years (10). In this study, prediction of CAD was not improved by the addition of either apo A-I levels or HDL density. Similarly, in the Physicians’ Health Study (11) and the Caerphilly and Speedwell Collaborative Heart Disease Studies (12), both of which were studies of middle-aged men, risk prediction based on HDL-C was also not improved by HDL subclassification.

In 2005, Tzou and colleagues (13) examined the clinical value of “advanced lipoprotein testing” in 311 randomly selected adults participating in the Bogalusa Heart Study. Advanced lipoprotein testing included HDL-C subclasses, among other measures. These measurements were used to predict the presence of subclinical atherosclerosis, as measured ultrasonographically by carotid intima-media thickness. In multivariate logistic regression models, substituting advanced lipoprotein testing for corresponding traditional lipoprotein values did not improve prediction of the highest quartile of carotid intima-media thickness.

Ridker et al. (14) compared the predictive ability of apo A-I and the ratio of apo B/apo A-I to standard lipid measurements. Measurements of apo A-I and the apo B/apo A-I ratio had similar predictive ability to standard lipid measurements, but were no better. The hazard ratio (HR) for future cardiovascular events was 1.75 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.30– 2.38) for apo A-I, compared to 2.32 (95% CI: 1.64– 3.33) for HDL-C. The HR for the ratio of apo B/apo A-I was 3.01 (95% CI: 2.01– 4.50), compared with a HR of 3.18 (95% CI: 2.12–- 4.75) for the ratio of LDL-C/HDL-C.

A number of studies have evaluated the utility of the apo B/apo A-I ratio as a marker of treatment response in randomized controlled studies of statin treatment. Kastelein et al. (15) combined data from 2 randomized controlled, trials, the Treating to New Targets (TNT) and the Incremental Decrease in End Points through Aggressive Lipid Lowering (IDEAL) trials, to compare the relationship between response to lipids, apo B/apo A-I ratio, and other lipid measures. This analysis included 18,889 patients with established coronary disease randomized to low- or high-dose statin treatment. In pairwise comparisons, the ratio of apo B/apo A-I was a significant predictor of events (HR 1.24; 95% CI: 1.17-1.32) while the total/HDL cholesterol was not.

The PROVE-IT TIMI study (16) randomized 4,162 patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) to standard statin therapy or intensive statin therapy. While the on-treatment ratio of apo B/apo A-I ratio was a significant predictor of cardiac events (HR for each SD increment 1.10, 95% CI: 1.01–1.20), it was not superior to LDL-C (HR 1.20, 95% CI: 1.07-1.35) or the total cholesterol/HDL ratio (HR 1.12; 95% CI: 1.01–1.24) as a predictor of cardiac events.

Some researchers have attempted to develop multivariate risk prediction models intended for use in clinical care, in which both traditional risk factors and apolipoprotein measures were included as potential predictors. Ridker and colleagues (17) published the Reynolds Risk Score, based on data from 24,558 initially healthy women enrolled in the Women’s Health Study and followed up for a median of 10.2 years. A total of 35 potential predictors of cardiovascular disease were considered potential predictors, and two final prediction models were derived. The first model was the best fitting model statistically, and included both apo B and the apo B/apo A-I ratio as 2 of 9 final predictors. The second model, called the “clinically simplified model,” substituted LDL-C for apo B and total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol for apo B/apo A-I. The authors developed this simplified model “for the purpose of clinical application and efficiency,” and justified replacing the apo-B and apo B/apo A-I measures as a result of their high correlation with traditional lipid measures (r =0.87 and 0.80, respectively).

Ingelsson and colleagues (18) used data from 3,322 individuals in the Framingham Offspring Study to compare prediction models with traditional lipid measures to models that include apolipoprotein and other nontraditional lipid measures. This study reported that the apo B/apo A-I ratio had similar predictive ability compared to traditional lipid ratios with respect to model discrimination, calibration, and reclassification. The authors also reported that the apo B/apo A-I ratio did not provide any incremental predictive value over traditional measures.

In summary, numerous measures have been used in HDL subclass testing. The current evidence generally supports the contention that HDL subclass testing is as good as or better than currently used measures, although not all studies have come to this conclusion. Some experts argue that the apo B/apoA-I ratio is superior to the LDL/HDL ratio as a predictor of cardiovascular risk, and should supplement or replace traditional lipid measures as both a risk marker and a treatment target. (19-21) However, there is substantial uncertainty regarding the degree of improvement that these measures provide. The evidence suggests that any incremental improvement in predictive ability over traditional measures is likely to be small and of uncertain clinical significance.

Furthermore, improved risk prediction does not by itself result in better health outcomes. (22) To improve outcomes, clinicians must have the tools to translate this information into clinical practice. Such tools for linking HDL subclasses to clinical decision-making, both in risk assessment and treatment response, are currently not available. HDL subclassification has not been incorporated into quantitative risk assessment models or treatment guidelines that can be used in clinical practice, such as the Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP III) .(23) The ATP III practice guidelines continue to tie clinical decision-making to conventional lipid measures, such as total cholesterol, LDL-C, and HDL-C. Therefore, it is not yet possible to conclude that these measures improve outcomes or that they should be adopted in routine clinical care.

None of the available evidence is sufficient to prompt reconsideration of the current policy statement, which remains unchanged.

 

References:

  1. Walldius G, Jungner I, Holme I et al. High apolipoprotein B, low apolipoprotein A-I, and improvement in the prediction of fatal myocardial infarction (AMORIS study): a prospective study. Lancet 2001; 358(9298):2026-33
  2. Gotto AM, Whitney E, Stein EA et al. Relation between baseline and on-treatment lipid parameters and first acute major coronary events in the Air Force/Texas Coronary Atherosclerosis Prevention Study (AFCAPS/TexCAPS). Circulation 2000; 101(5):477-84.
  3. Salonen JT, Salonen R, Seppanen K et al. HDL, HDL-2 and HDL-3 subfractions and the risk of acute myocardial infarction. A prospective study in eastern Finnish men. Circulation 1991; 84(1):129-39.
  4. Lamarche B, Moorjani S, Lupien PJ et al. Apolipoprotein A-I and B levels and the risk of ischemic heart disease during a five-year follow-up of men in the Quebec cardiovascular study. Circulation 1996; 94(3):273-8.
  5. Benn M, Nordestgaard BG, Jensen GB et al. Improving prediction of ischemic cardiovascular disease in the general population using apolipoprotein B: the Copenhagen City Heart Study. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2007; 27(3):661-70.
  6. Clarke R, Emberson JR, Parish S et al. Cholesterol fractions and apolipoproteins as risk factors for heart disease mortality in older men. Arch Intern Med 2007; 167(13):1373-8.
  7. Birjmohun RS, Dallinga-Thie GM, Kuivenhoven JA et al. Apolipoprotein A-II is inversely associated with risk of future coronary artery disease. Circulation 2007; 116(18):2029-35.
  8. van der Steeg WA, Boekholdt SM, Stein EA et al. Role of the apolipoprotein B-apolipoprotein A-I ratio in cardiovascular risk assessment: a case-control analysis in EPIC-Norfolk. Ann Intern Med 2007; 146(9):640-8.
  9. El Harchaoui K, Arsenault BJ, Franssen R et al. High-density lipoprotein size and concentration and coronary risk. Ann Intern Med 2009; 150(2):84-93.
  10. Sharrett AR, Ballantyne CM, Coady SA et al. Coronary heart disease prediction from lipoprotein cholesterol levels, triglycerides, lipoprotein(a), apolipoproteins A-I and B, and HDL subfractions: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Circulation 2001; 104(10):1108-13.
  11. Stampfer MJ, Sacks FM, Salvini S et al. A prospective study of cholesterol apolipoproteins, and the risk of myocardial infarction. N Engl J Med 1991; 325(6):373-81.
  12. Sweetnam PM, Bolton CH, Yarnell JW et al. Associations of the HDL-2 and HDL-3 cholesterol subfractions with the development of ischemic heart disease in British men. The Caerphilly and Speedwell Collaborative Heart Disease Studies. Circulation 1994; 90(2):769-74.
  13. Tzou WS, Douglas PS, Srinivasan SR et al. Advanced lipoprotein testing does not improve identification of subclinical atherosclerosis in young adults: the Bogalusa Heart Study. Ann Intern Med 2005; 142(9):742-50.
  14. Ridker PM, Rifai N, Cook NR et al. Non-HDL cholesterol, apolipoproteins A-I and B100, standard lipid measures, lipid ratios, and CRP as risk factors for cardiovascular disease in women. JAMA 2005; 294(3):326-33.
  15. Kastelein JJ, van der Steeg WA, Holme I et al. Lipids, apolipoproteins, and their ratios in relation to cardiovascular events with statin treatment. Circulation 2008;117(23):3002-9.
  16. Ray KK, Cannon CP, Cairns R et al. Prognostic utility of ApoB/AI, total cholesterol/HDL, non-HDL cholesterol, or hs-CRP as predictors of clinical risk in patients receiving statin therapy after acute coronary syndromes. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2009; 29(3):424-30.
  17. Ridker PM, Buring JE, Rifai N et al. Development and validation of improved algorithms for the assessment of global cardiovascular risk in women: the Reynolds Risk Score. JAMA 2007; 297(6):611-9.
  18. Ingelsson E, Schaefer EJ, Contois JH et al. Clinical utility of different lipid measures for prediction of coronary heart disease in men and women. JAMA 2007; 298(7):776-85.
  19. Sniderman AD, Kiss RS. The strengths and limitations of the apoB/apoA-I ratio to predict the risk of vascular disease: a Hegelian analysis. Curr Atheroscler Rep 2007; 9(4):261-5.
  20. Mudd JO, Borlaug BA, Johnston PV et al. Beyond low-density lipoprotein cholesterol: defining the role of low-density lipoprotein heterogeneity in coronary artery disease. J Am Coll Cardiol 2007; 50(18):1735-41.
  21. 2002 TEC Assessments; Tab 23 (Special Report).
  22. Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults. Executive summary of the third report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). JAMA 2001; 285(19):2486-97.

 

Codes

Number

Description

CPT 

82664 

Electrophoretic technique, not otherwise specified 

  83701 Lipoprotein, blood; high resolution fractionation and quantitation of lipoproteins including lipoprotein subclasses when performed (e.g., electrophoresis, ultracentrifugation)
  83704 Lipoprotein, blood; quantification of lipoprotein particle numbers and lipoprotein particle subclasses (e.g., by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy)

ICD-9 Procedure 

 

 

ICD-9 Diagnosis 

250 

Diabetes, code range 

 

272 

Disorders of lipid metabolism, code range 

 

410–414 

Ischemic heart disease code range 

 

440 

Atherosclerosis, code range 

 

443 

Peripheral vascular disease, code range 

 

V12.5 

Personal history of disease of the circulatory system 

 

V17.3-17.4 

Family history of ischemic heart disease or other cardiovascular disease, respectively 

HCPCS 

 

 

Type of Service 

Pathology/Laboratory 

Place of Service 

Outpatient 

 


 

Index

Cardiovascular Risk Assessment, HDL Subclass Testing
HDL Subclassification
High Density Lipoprotein Subclassification

 


 

Policy History

Date Action Reason
05/31/01 Add to Medicine section New policy
04/29/03 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; no change in policy statement, references added
11/9/04 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; no change in policy statement
08/17/05 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; no change in policy statement. Reference 14 added.
02/15/07 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; no change in policy statement, reference numbers 15 and 16 added
04/09/08 Replace policy  Policy updated with literature search; no change in policy statement, reference numbers 17 through 24 added 
04/24/09 Replace policy  Policy extensively revised with literature search; previous updates condensed. References condensed and reordered; reference numbers 9, 15, and 16 added. No change to policy statement