This study was performed to assess the value of dobutamine stress echocardiography for noninvasive diagnosis of cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV) compared with coronary angiography and intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) in 50 consecutive orthotopic heart transplant recipients. In 46 of 50 patients, a technically adequate echocardiogram could be obtained. Using a 16-segment model, a total of 675 segments were analyzed. At rest, wall motion abnormalities were found in 61 of 675 (9.0%) left ventricular segments in 15 of 46 patients. At maximal dobutamine stress, 103 of 675 segments (15.3%) had wall motion abnormalities (25 of 46 patients). Based on IVUS and angiographic findings, patients were allocated to 2 groups. Group I (n=18) had absent or only mild intimal hyperplasia (mean IVUS grade < or = 3.0 on a 6-grade scale). Group II (n=28) had moderate to severe intimal hyperplasia (mean grade > 3.0 with or without angiographic evidence of CAV. The prevalence of wall motion abnormalities was significantly higher in group II than in group I, both at rest (50 of 415 vs 11 of 270 coronary segments in 13 of 28 vs 2 of 18 patients) and during maximal stress (88 of 415 vs 15 of 270 coronary segments in 22 of 28 vs 3 of 18 patients). Quantitative M-mode echocardiography demonstrated decreased wall thickening in group II versus group I patients at maximal dobutamine dosage in the septum (48 +/- 18% vs 61 +/- 17%; p < 0.01) as well as in the left ventricular posterior wall (77 +/- 21% vs 96 +/- 21%; p <0.005). Regional myocardial dysfunction as assessed by dobutamine stress echocardiography was associated with IVUS evidence of moderate to severe intimal hyperplasia. Dobutamine stress echocardiography appears to be a feasible noninvasive method for detection of CAV in heart transplant recipients, which may reduce the need for routine coronary angiography.