Quantitative ultrasonic analysis of myocardium in patients with thalassemia major and iron overload.
BACKGROUND Patients with beta-thalassemia major present with severe anemia and need continuous transfusion therapy. The consequent iron overload leads to hemochromatosis. Initial cardiac dysfunction has been documented even in thalassemics without clinical manifestations of heart failure as well as by conventional echocardiographic-Doppler techniques. The purpose of this study was to assess the acoustic quantitative properties of myocardium in patients with iron overload.
METHODS AND RESULTS Thirty-eight patients with beta-thalassemia major, without clinical signs of cardiac failure, and 20 age- and sex-matched young controls were studied by echocardiography. An on-line analysis of the ultrasonic radiofrequency signal was performed to obtain quantitative operator-independent measurements of the integrated backscatter (IB) signal of the ventricular septum and the posterior wall. The integrated values of the radiofrequency signal were normalized for the pericardial interface and expressed in percent (IB%). Thalassemic patients had been receiving transfusion therapy for 16 +/- 5 years and had received 313 +/- 138 transfusion units; they all had received chelation treatment (desferroxiamine) for 9 +/- 2 years. Patients and controls showed comparable values of echocardiographically assessed percent fractional shortening (32 +/- 3% versus 36 +/- 4%, p = NS), whereas thalassemics showed higher values of left ventricular mass index (118 +/- 30 versus 98 +/- 15 g/m2, p < 0.05). The IB% values were higher in patients with thalassemia major than in controls for both septum (35 +/- 14% versus 21 +/- 6%, p < 0.001) and posterior wall (16 +/- 6% versus 11 +/- 3%, p < 0.001). In thalassemic patients, no significant correlation was found between the septum IB% value and hematological parameters, such as the total number of transfusions (r = 0.2, p = NS) or the mean ferritin value (r = 0.1, p = NS). No significant correlation was also found between the septum IB% value and the echocardiographically assessed left ventricular mass index (r = 0.2, p = NS).
CONCLUSIONS These data demonstrate that myocardial reflectivity is abnormally increased in patients with thalassemia major under transfusion treatment, probably due to myocardial iron deposits and/or secondary structural changes. These quantitatively assessed abnormalities in regional reflectivity can be detected when conventional echocardiographic parameters of systolic left ventricular function are undistinguishable from normal controls.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association