ASE: Contrast agent Definity not linked to increased deaths

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There is no increased risk of death for patients who receive the contrast agent Definity (Lantheus Medical Imaging, formerly Bristol-Myers Squibb) during an ultrasound contrast echocardiogram, according to research presented at the 2008 American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) meeting held in Toronto this week.

Scientists sought to determine if there is an association between Definity and mortality in high-risk subgroups of patients who underwent contrast echocardiography in the Calgary Health Region (CHR). Ultrasound contrast agents, such as Definity, improve the accuracy of left ventricular function assessment. 

“A chart review of patient deaths revealed a plausible explanation of mortality unrelated to Definity in all cases,” said study author Greg Schnell, MD, from the University of Calgary in Alberta. “All of the patients were critically ill at the time of their ultrasound and we could find no evidence that the contrast agent played any role in their death.”
All patients who received Definity for clinical indications in the CHR from February 2003 until December 2007 were identified from a computer database. Survival and clinical data was available on 731 patients. Researchers found that of 731 patients, only 13 deaths (1.8 percent) occurred within 48 hours of echocardiographic contrast agent administration.

There were 481 patients who had an admitting diagnosis of acute coronary syndrome (ACS). In the potentially high-risk subgroup, there were only seven deaths (1.5 percent) within 48 hours of Definity administration.

The researchers concluded that there was a low risk of death in patients who received Definity in the CHR. There was no increased risk of death in patients with a presenting diagnosis of ACS.

Chart review revealed that all of the patients were critically ill at the time of Definity administration and there was no clear association between echocardiographic contrast agent administration and death, according to researchers.