ASE: Ultrasound contrast agent safe during stress echocardiogram

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The use of ultrasound contrast agents during stress echocardiograms is safe, according to study results presented at the 2008 American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) meeting held in Toronto this week.

The researchers said that the risk of major adverse effects is no different in patients that received contrast during their stress echocardiogram than in those who did not receive contrast, according to research findings. The authors noted that the data held true even though contrast was more often used in patients with a higher cardiac risk profile.

“Contrast-enhanced stress echocardiography is a safe option to attain important diagnostic information for those patients who may be difficult to image by cardiac ultrasound alone,” said study author Kamran Shaikh, MD, postdoctoral echocardiography fellow at the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center in Houston. “Our research found no link between its use and adverse events nor any reason why it shouldn’t be available to cardiologists whose patients would benefit from it.”

The study examined 3,121 consecutive patients who underwent stress echocardiograms from 2002 through 2007 at Methodist DeBakey. Researchers evaluated demographics, contrast use, hemodynamics, ECG and wall motion changes, symptoms and arrhythmias.

Contrast was administered in 1,879 of 3,121 patients (60 percent), according to researchers. None of the patients receiving an ultrasound contrast agent experienced sustained ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, cardiac arrest or death.

Researchers concluded that the risk of major adverse events was very small in both, contrast and non-contrast echo cohorts.