Normal ultrasonic myocardial reflectivity in athletes with increased left ventricular mass. A tissue characterization study.
BACKGROUND Ultrasonic integrated backscatter of myocardial walls is directly related to the morphometrically evaluated collagen content. The integrated backscatter is also increased in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, probably because of fiber disarray. The purpose of this study was to investigate myocardial tissue reflectivity in subjects with physiological hypertrophy caused by intense physical training and to assess the relation between the acoustic properties of myocardial tissue and left ventricular wall thickness assessed by conventional two-dimensional echocardiography.
METHODS AND RESULTS Twenty-four young male athletes (14 professional cyclists and 10 weight lifters, all in full agonistic activity) were studied together with 10 normal age-matched controls with sedentary life. By means of a commercially available two-dimensional echocardiograph, standard measurements were obtained according to the recommendations of the American Society of Echocardiography. With a prototype implemented in our Institute, an on-line radiofrequency analysis of ultrasound signals was also performed to obtain quantitative operator-independent measurements of the integrated backscatter of the myocardial walls. The integrated values of the radiofrequency signal were normalized for the pericardial interface and expressed in percent integrated backscatter (%IB). Compared with control subjects, athletes showed greater thickness values of septum (controls, 9 +/- 1; cyclists, 14 +/- 2; weight lifters, 15 +/- 1 mm, mean +/- SD; p less than 0.01) and posterior wall (9 +/- 1, 12 +/- 2, and 12 +/- 1 mm, respectively; p less than 0.01) but similar values of %IB for both septum (23 +/- 4%, 21 +/- 7%, and 23 +/- 8%, p = NS) and posterior wall (10 +/- 2%, 9 +/- 2%, and 11 +/- 2%, p = NS). In athletes, no correlation was found between septal and posterior wall thickness and the corresponding regional myocardial reflectivity (r = 0.23, p = NS and r = 0.01, p = NS, respectively). Furthermore, we compared the quantitative ultrasonic data between two subsets of 10 athletes and 10 patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and similar degrees of septal thickness (16 +/- 1 versus 17 +/- 1 mm, respectively, p = NS). Septal and posterior wall %IB results were significantly higher in patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (53 +/- 13% and 36 +/- 9%, respectively) than in athletes (21 +/- 7% and 10 +/- 3%, respectively; p less than 0.01 for both).
CONCLUSIONS We conclude that 1) endurance athletes show a normal pattern of quantitatively assessed ultrasonic backscatter despite of a marked left ventricular hypertrophy and 2) athletes and patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and similar degrees of myocardial wall thickness can be differentiated on the basis of quantitative analysis of backscattered signal.
- Copyright © 1992 by American Heart Association