App Makes Calculating LDL Cholesterol Easy for Physicians

Published in Insight - Mar/April 2019 Insight

It’s one thing to develop a better method for calculating a patient’s risk for deadly cholesterol; it’s another to make that complex calculation accessible for doctors to actually use. That’s why cardiologists Steven Jones and Seth Martin created LDL Cholesterol Calculator, an app that lets physicians better calculate low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol using their patient’s lab results. 

“This isn’t something you can figure out on the back of an envelope,” says Jones. “There’s really an interim need for physicians to be able to conveniently and efficiently calculate this.” 

The method, called the Martin-Hopkins calculation (named after the first author of the publication the app is based on),was developed by Martin and Jones in 2013. It has already been incorporated into the clinical lab software of Johns Hopkins Medicine and Quest Diagnostics, the largest provider of diagnostic testing services in the United States. But for health facilities that have yet to adopt the Martin-Hopkins calculation software, the app is a free, easy-to-use alternative. 

Jones says the traditional method doctors learn to calculate LDL cholesterol — the Friedewald equation — is easy to remember but underestimates the desirable LDL cholesterol range for patients with a high risk for heart attack and stroke. 

However, the Martin-Hopkins equation is more complex and requires the use of tables, lending itself well to being made into an app. Users enter a patient’s total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride numbers into designated boxes to calculate the LDL cholesterol. Calculations can be made in imperial or metric units.

“The beauty is the app is straightforward,” says Martin. “In a matter of seconds, you can get an accurate LDL cholesterol result.”

The first version of the app was launched in 2016; the team then partnered with the Johns Hopkins Technology Innovation Center to create the current version. LDL Cholesterol Calculator has been downloaded more than 10,000 times and is available through Apple’s App Store and Google Play for Android users.