Résumé : Background: The presence of increased levels of small dense (sd) LDL (phenotype B) is associated with a substantial increase of cardiovascular disease risk. Since lowering of plasma low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) by statins involves an up-regulation of the LDL receptor, we questioned whether LDL lowering by atorvastatin affects different LDL subfractions equally. Methods: Fifty-four hypercholesterolemic patients, requiring treatment for prevention of coronary heart disease received atorvastatin (10, 20 or 40 mg/day), either as initial therapy (n=33), or as replacement therapy (n=21) for pravastatin or simvastatin (both at 40 mg/day). In addition to plasma lipid measurements, cholesterol LDL subfractions were separated and analysed before and after 3 months of treatment. Results: In addition to the expected LDL-C decrease (-34%; p<0.0001), a major reduction in sd LDL occurred after atorvastatin therapy (-38.2%; p<0.0001). Interestingly, sd LDL decreased as much in patients previously treated with other statins (-36%; p<0.002). A close correlation (r=0.89, p<0.001) was found between reduction of sd LDL and that of LDL-C, in patients with phenotype B. Although high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) was not affected by atorvastatin treatment, plasma triglycerides decreased by 27.4% (p<0.0001). Only a weak correlation (r=0.35, p<0.01) was found between the reduction of plasma triglycerides and the decrease of sd LDL after atorvastatin treatment. Conclusion: These results show that the reduction of LDL-C by atorvastatin largely reflects a lowering of sd LDL. Our data also suggest that triglyceride lowering plays only a partial role in sd LDL reduction. © 2005 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.