Background: Although illicit anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) use is widespread, the cardiac effects of long-term AAS use remain inadequately characterized. We compared cardiac parameters in weightlifters reporting long-term AAS use to those in otherwise similar weightlifters without prior AAS exposure.
Methods and results: We performed 2D tissue-Doppler and speckle-tracking echocardiography to assess left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction, LV systolic strain, and conventional indices of diastolic function in long-term AAS users (n=12) and otherwise similar AAS nonusers (n=7). AAS users (median [quartile 1, quartile 3] cumulative lifetime AAS exposure, 468 [169, 520] weeks) closely resembled nonusers in age, prior duration of weightlifting, and current intensity of weight training. LV structural parameters were similar between the two groups; however, AAS users had significantly lower LV ejection fraction (50.6% [48.4, 53.6] versus 59.1% [58.0%, 61.7%]; P=0.003 by two-tailed Wilcoxon rank sum test), longitudinal strain (16.9% [14.0%, 19.0%] versus 21.0% [20.2%, 22.9%]; P=0.004), and radial strain (38.3% [28.5%, 43.7%] versus 50.1% [44.3%, 61.8%]; P=0.02). Ten of the 12 AAS users showed LV ejection fractions below the accepted limit of normal (>or=55%). AAS users also demonstrated decreased diastolic function compared to nonusers as evidenced by a markedly lower early peak tissue velocity (7.4 [6.8, 7.9] cm/s versus 9.9 [8.3, 10.5] cm/s; P=0.005) and early-to-late diastolic filling ratio (0.93 [0.88, 1.39] versus 1.80 [1.48, 2.00]; P=0.003).
Conclusions: Cardiac dysfunction in long-term AAS users appears to be more severe than previously reported and may be sufficient to increase the risk of heart failure.