Obesity cardiomyopathy: is it a reality? An ultrasonic tissue characterization study

J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2006 Aug;19(8):1063-71. doi: 10.1016/j.echo.2006.03.033.


Obesity is a well-established risk factor for congestive heart failure. Evidence has been provided indicating that insulin resistance could be the mediator between obesity and congestive heart failure, but the pathogenic mechanisms leading to myocardial alterations remain unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate, by ultrasonic integrated backscatter (IBS) analysis, subclinical alterations of left ventricular (LV) structure and function in severe obesity. Sixty consecutive, severely obese people, who were otherwise healthy (15 men, 45 women; mean age +/- SD = 31.8 +/- 7 years), were enrolled. A total of 48 sex- and age-matched nonobese healthy participants were recruited as control subjects. All participants underwent conventional 2-dimensional color Doppler echocardiography, pulsed wave Doppler tissue imaging at mitral annulus level, and IBS. The homeostasis model assessment insulin resistance index was used to assess insulin resistance; the index values in the obese group were significantly higher (mean +/- SD = 4.9 +/- 1.4) than in the control group (0.92 +/- 0.5, P < .0001). Obese patients had a greater LV mass index by height (58.5 +/- 14 g/m(2.7)) than did control subjects (37 +/- 8 g/m(2.7), P < .0001) because of compensation response to volume overload caused by a greater cardiac output (P < .02). Preload reserve was increased in obese patients, as demonstrated by the significant increase in left atrial dimension (P < .0001). This volumetric increase activated the Frank-Starling mechanism, and determined a significantly higher LV ejection fraction (P < .03) in obese patients as compared with control subjects. A slightly reduced LV diastolic function was demonstrated in obese patients (transmitral early to late peak diastolic transmitral flow velocities ratio = 1.1 +/- 0.7) as compared with control subjects (1.5 +/- 0.5, P < .02). Pulsed wave Doppler tissue imaging showed an impairment of diastolic LV longitudinal function and increased LV diastolic filling pressure. The IBS values at septum level, indexed by pericardium interface, were significantly higher for septum in the obese group (57.8 +/- 8%) than in the control group (42.3 +/- 9%, P < .0001). Additional IBS alterations were observed in the obese group, with a significantly lower cyclic variation index both at septum (P < .0001) and at posterior wall (P < .001) levels. A significant association was found between insulin resistance index and both the IBS index of myocardial reflectivity at septum level (expression of increased myocardial collagen content) or LV mass. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that obese patients exhibit myocardial structural and functional alterations related to insulin resistance and to LV volume overload, which could be considered the very early stage of incipient obesity cardiomyopathy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiomyopathies / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cardiomyopathies / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Echocardiography, Doppler, Color / statistics & numerical data*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Obesity / diagnostic imaging*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / epidemiology*