Background: Androgens have striking effects on skeletal muscle, but the effects on human cardiac muscle function are not well defined, neither has the role of metabolic activation (aromatization, 5alpha reduction) of testosterone on cardiac muscle been directly studied.
Objective: To assess the effects of testosterone and nandrolone, a non-amplifiable and non-aromatizable pure androgen, on cardiac muscle function in healthy young men.
Design: Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, three-arm parallel group clinical trial.
Setting: Ambulatory care research centre.
Participants: Healthy young men randomized into three groups of 10 men.
Intervention: Weekly intramuscular injections of testosterone (200 mg mixed esters), nandrolone (200 mg nandrolone decanoate) or matching (2 ml arachis oil vehicle) placebo for 4 weeks.
Main outcome measures: Comprehensive measures of cardiac muscle function involving transthoracic cardiac echocardiography measuring myocardial tissue velocity, peak systolic strain and strain rates, and bioimpedance measurement of cardiac output and systematic vascular resistance.
Results: Left ventricular (LV) function (LV ejection fraction, LV modified TEI index), right ventricular (RV) function (ejection area, tricuspid annular systolic planar motion, RV modified TEI index) as well as cardiac afterload (mean arterial pressure, systemic vascular resistance) and overall cardiac contractility (stroke volume, cardiac output) were within age- and gender-specific reference ranges and were not significantly (P < 0.05) altered by either androgen or placebo over 4 weeks of treatment. Minor changes remaining within normal range were observed solely within the testosterone group for: increased LV end-systolic diameter (30 +/- 7 vs. 33 +/- 5 mm, P = 0.04) and RV end-systolic area (12.8 +/- 1.3 vs. 14.6 +/- 3.3 cm(2), P = 0.04), reduced LV diastolic septal velocity (Em, 9.5 +/- 2.6 vs. 8.7 +/- 2.0 cm/s, P = 0.006), increased LV filling pressure (E/Em ratio, 7.1 +/- 1.6 vs. 8.3 +/- 1.8, P = 0.02) and shortened PR interval on the electrocardiogram (167 +/- 13 vs. 154 +/- 12, P = 0.03).
Conclusion: Four weeks of treatment with testosterone or nandrolone had no beneficial or adverse effects compared with placebo on cardiac function in healthy young men.