Increased echodensity of transiently asynergic myocardium in humans: a novel echocardiographic sign of myocardial ischemia

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1993 Jan;21(1):199-207. doi: 10.1016/0735-1097(93)90737-l.


Objectives: This study was conducted to establish whether changes in myocardial texture can be observed in humans by transthoracic echocardiography during ischemic episodes of different severity and duration induced by various pathogenetic mechanisms.

Background: Increased echo-reflectivity of ischemic myocardium has been detected in experimental animals by epicardial echocardiography and by backscatter evaluation.

Methods: Transthoracic two-dimensional echocardiographic monitoring with a commercially available electronic sector scanner (2.25- or 3.5-MHz transducer) was performed during 35 episodes of transient myocardial ischemia induced by ergonovine in patients with vasospastic angina (n = 9), by dipyridamole in patients with angiographically assessed coronary artery disease (n = 11) and by balloon occlusion during coronary angioplasty (n = 15). Quantitative texture analysis of gray levels was performed off-line on digitized images during rest conditions, ischemia and the recovery phase in regions showing normal contraction at rest, obvious dyssynergy during ischemia and normal contraction in the recovery phase. In each condition, a control region with normal contraction throughout the study was also evaluated.

Results: Chest pain occurred in 23 of the 35 episodes; electrocardiographic (ECG) changes were present in 26 episodes, and consisted of ST segment elevation in 13, ST segment depression in 10 and pseudonormalization of a basally negative T wave in 3. The duration of ischemic episodes was 67 +/- 53 s by symptomatic criteria and 91 +/- 52 s by ECG criteria. The risk region showed an increased end-diastolic mean gray level amplitude in a.u. (arbitrary units) during ischemia (57 +/- 19) compared with rest (38 +/- 15) and recovery (38 +/- 18, p < 0.01). No significant changes were detected in the control region (rest 36 +/- 16 vs. ischemia 34 +/- 18 vs. recovery 31 +/- 13, p = NS). The percent increase in mean gray level was similar in the various types of stress employed (ergonovine, dipyridamole or angioplasty) and was not significantly correlated with either the duration of ST segment shift (r = 0.05, p = NS) or the severity of dyssynergy evaluated semiquantitatively by means of the wall motion score (r = 0.28, p = NS). In the 15 balloon occlusions performed in six patients during coronary angioplasty, the increased echoreflectivity of the risk zone was already evident during echocardiographic sampling performed after 10 +/- 4 s of occlusion (rest 35 +/- 9 vs. 53 +/- 10 a.u., p < 0.01) when no dyssynergy could be detected by quantitative wall motion analysis (percent area change by fixed center of mass reference system 31 +/- 10% at rest vs. 32 +/- 11% after 10 s of occlusion, p = NS).

Conclusions: Transient short-lasting myocardial ischemia is associated with an abrupt increase in myocardial echodensity detectable by videodensitometric analysis applied to standard transthoracic echocardiographic images and is largely independent of the underlying pathogenetic mechanism (reduced blood supply or flow maldistribution with coronary stenosis). During controlled coronary occlusion, increased echodensity precedes the onset of regional dyssynergy.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Angina Pectoris, Variant / complications
  • Angina Pectoris, Variant / diagnostic imaging
  • Angina Pectoris, Variant / epidemiology
  • Angina Pectoris, Variant / therapy
  • Angioplasty, Balloon, Coronary
  • Dipyridamole
  • Echocardiography* / methods
  • Echocardiography* / statistics & numerical data
  • Ergonovine / analogs & derivatives
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Contraction* / drug effects
  • Myocardial Ischemia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / epidemiology
  • Myocardial Ischemia / etiology
  • Myocardial Ischemia / therapy
  • Observer Variation
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Dipyridamole
  • Ergonovine