What is Seattle Children’s Lipid Disorders Program?

Our Lipid Disorders team diagnoses and cares for children who have abnormal levels of fats in their blood. These include cholesterol (kuh-LES-tuh-rawl) and triglycerides (TRY-glis-eh-rides). High blood cholesterol increases the chance of having an early heart attack or stroke – even in children. High triglycerides increase the risk of inflammation of the pancreas.

Most often, lipid disorders happen in children because:

  • A child has another condition that increases their blood fats. These include genetic conditions, uncontrolled diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome, low thyroid, liver disease and kidney disease.
  • Medicine to treat another condition raises levels of blood fats.
  • Parents pass abnormal genes to their child (inherited).
  • A child is very overweight or not physically active.

Who can the Lipid Disorders Program help?

Lipid disorders rarely show any outward signs or symptoms. Children and teens come to us for reasons such as:

  • A blood test shows they have high lipid levels
  • Their family history puts them at risk of lipid disorders, such as parents with high cholesterol or a family member who had an early heart attack (middle age or younger)
  • They have a condition that is known to increase blood lipid levels

Why choose Seattle Children’s Lipid Disorders Program?

At Seattle Children's, we have excellent results improving the health of children with abnormal blood fats. Our goal is to prevent early heart attack, stroke and diabetes, which can happen if blood fats are not controlled.

If you would like a referral to our Lipid Disorders Program, talk to your primary care provider. If you have any questions or already have a referral and would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us at 206-987-2640. Providers, see how to refer a patient.

  • Diabetes and Endocrinology U.S. News and World Report Best Children's Hospitals BadgeDr. Helén Dichek, director of the Lipid Disorders Program, is a national expert in identifying and treating these conditions in children. She specializes in lipid metabolism – how the body uses fatty acids to make and store energy and how the body makes and uses cholesterol. As an expert in how cholesterol damages blood vessels and causes hardening of the arteries, she understands what to do to prevent this.

    With a top-10 national ranking by U.S. News & World Report for 2019-20, our Endocrinology and Diabetes Program is the highest-ranked program in the Northwest.

    • Lipid disorders happen for many reasons. Dr. Dichek is experienced in finding the cause so your child gets the right treatment. She started the Lipid Disorder Program at Seattle Children’s in 2001.
    • We tailor treatment to your child. We can offer treatment options not available at all centers, including clinical trials of promising new treatments.
    • Lipid levels are only part of the picture. Healthy blood vessels are also key. It is very important to avoid inflammation, which raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. We talk to families about healthy lifestyle habits that help prevent diabetes, heart attack and stroke. These include keeping weight under control, not smoking and getting exercise.

     

    • Dr. Dichek does research to improve care for children with lipid disorders. She works with Seattle Children’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research.
    • She keeps a registry of patients taking medicines for lipid disorders so we better understand the long-term effects.
    • In past research, Dr. Dichek found the genetic change (mutation) that causes a type of lipid disorder called chylomicronemia syndrome.

     

    • We treat your whole child, not just their symptoms. Members of our team have special training in their field and in the unique needs of children and teens.
    • At Seattle Children’s, child life specialists and social workers help your child and family ease tension, express concerns or fears and feel more in control. We connect you to endocrinology and diabetes resources.
    • We work with many children and families from around the Northwest and beyond. Seattle Children's can help with financial counseling, schooling, housing, transportation, interpreter services and spiritual care. Read about our services for patients and families.

Conditions We Treat

We treat many types of lipid disorders. These include:

  • Chylomicronemia (KY-loh-my-kro-NEE-mee-uh) syndrome
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia (hy-per-ko-les-ter-o-LEE-mee-uh)
  • Familial hypertriglyceridemia (hy-per-try-glis-er-ih-DEE-mee-uh)
  • Lipodystrophy (lip-o-DIS-tro-FEE) syndromes
  • Hypobetalipoproteinemia (hy-po-beh-tuh-lip-o-pro-teen-EE-mee-uh)
  • Tangier (tan-JEER) disease
  • LCAT deficiency

Treatments We Offer

The right treatment for your child depends on what is causing their abnormal lipid levels. We take these approaches:

  • Finding and treating any existing condition is the first step. Dr. Dichek has years of experience diagnosing and caring for children with endocrine conditions. She refers patients to other specialists if needed.

    We also check if a child is taking medicine for another condition. If that medicine is causing high blood lipid levels, Dr. Dichek works with the child’s other doctors to see if another medicine can be taken instead. If that’s not possible, sometimes children take medicine to lower their lipid levels.

  • Some lipid disorders can be treated with medicines. Children with generalized lipodystrophy take a medicine (leptin) that replaces a missing hormone. Taken early in life, this can prevent diabetes from developing.

    Dr. Dichek is working to find and test more medicines for children with lipid disorders. For example, medicines that adults take for chylomicronemia syndrome may also be safe and effective in children.

  • We talk to your family about lifestyle habits to keep the blood vessels healthy and lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. These habits include keeping weight under control, not smoking, getting exercise, and preventing or controlling diabetes.

    Our dietitians work with you to create an eating plan that fits your family. They account for your child’s favorite foods, family culture and budget. We help you connect with resources at school and in the community to eat a healthy diet.

    If tests show your child’s blood sugar (glucose) levels do not stay normal after they eat or drink, we refer them to our Insulin Resistance Clinic.

Scheduling an Appointment With the Lipid Disorders Program

Who’s on the team?

Contact Us

For more information, contact the Endocrinology and Diabetes Program at 206-987-2640. If you would like an appointment, ask your child’s primary care provider to refer you.

We provide care at our main campus in Seattle.

Providers, see how to refer a patient.

Paying for Care

Learn about paying for care at Seattle Children’s, including insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.