Dobutamine stress echocardiography has become widely accepted in the evaluation of adult patients with coronary heart disease. We wanted to assess the feasibility and the physiologic responses of stress echocardiography at low doses of dobutamine in a population of normal children and adults. Once achieved, we submitted a group of post-anthracycline patients to the test to assess the sensitivity of low-dose dobutamine stress echocardiography in the detection of cardiac dysfunction. Thirty-two healthy children and young adults (19 male and 13 female subjects, median age 15 years [range 6 to 26]) were studied. After the initial study of normal subjects, we submitted a cohort of 39 patients (18 female and 21 male, aged 6 to 25 years), who completed anthracycline chemotherapy, to the same protocol. Dobutamine was infused at rates of 0.5 to 2.5 and 5 microg/kg/min and echocardiographic measurements were obtained at rest and at the end of each stage. The test could be completed in 100% of the subjects without major complications. Statistically significant differences between resting echocardiographic values of systolic and diastolic function and values at 2.5 and 5 microg/kg/min of dobutamine were found. Moreover, dobutamine revealed or enhanced differences between normal subjects and the post-anthracycline patients. Thus, low-dose dobutamine stress echocardiography is feasible and safe in older children. The test is very sensitive for the detection of subclinical cardiac dysfunction in post-anthracycline patients and could possibly assess functional myocardial reserve.