December 8, 2011 — Speckle training echocardiography (STE) is the subject of two studies being presented at EUROECHO 2011, Dec. 7-10 in Budapest, Hungary. They compare STE, a recent echocardiography technique, with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in quantifying infarct size (IS) after ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). MRI is the current gold standard for IS quantification.
“Up until now infarct size has only been measured as part of clinical studies and not in routine clinical practice. The reason being that the reference method of gadolinium-based contrast agents in MRI is expensive, takes a great deal of time to perform, and can only be undertaken by imaging specialists,” explains EAE president Luigi Badano, M.D., from the University of Padua, Italy. “The advantages of STE over MRI is that it’s far quicker to use, cheaper, and can be used by cardiologists at the bedside with portable machines, and repeated serially whenever needed.”
Additionally, STE can be applied even in patients with contraindications for MRI, such as metallic devices, claustrophobia, and severe renal failure that preclude use of contrast infusions. “The studies presented here open the way for every patient who is admitted to hospital with STEMI to undergo assessment of infarct size with echocardiography prior to discharge,” says Badano.
Infarct size matters for determining how well patients will recover from STEMI. Statistics suggest people who suffer damage to more than 30 percent of the left ventricle are twice as likely to die within a year of the event than people who suffer less damage. “It’s well known that patients with larger infarcts are more likely to undergo alterations in the structure (dimensions, mass and shape) of the left ventricle, known as cardiac remodelling, which leads to heart failure,” says Badano.
Evidence is mounting, he adds, that screening for patients with larger infract sizes enables identification of patients with a worse prognosis; these people would benefit from more aggressive therapy and more frequent follow-up visits. “Nowadays many more options exist for STEMI patients deemed at high risk of adverse events, including prescription of ACE inhibitors and insertion of devices like CRT cardiac resynchronization or ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillators)", says Badano.
STE is a comparatively new noninvasive echocardiography technique well suited to quantifying infarct size. It works by tracking the movement of natural acoustic markers or “speckles” which are present on standard grey ultrasound tissue images. With the use of wall motion tracking software, speckle movement (and therefore myocardial tissue movement) can be visualized during the cardiac cycle.
Speckle tracking can be used to evaluate myocardial strain, which describes the myocardial deformation throughout the cardiac cycle. Reductions in measurement of strain have been found to show direct relationships to the size of the infarct.
Study 1: First use of 3-D speckle tracking to estimate infarct size following STEMI
An Italian study found that measuring circumferential strain with 3-D speckle tracking provides a good predictor of infarct size after STEMI.
The study presents the first data on use of 3-D speckle tracking in measuring infarct size. Denisa Muraru, M.D., and colleagues from the University of Padua estimated infarct size and necrosis transmurality in patients with recent STEMI; the patients had also recently undergone successful treatment with primary percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI).
One of the advantages of 3-D speckle tracking over 2-D, say the authors, is it allows the assessment of longitudinal (apex-to-base shortening), circumferential (shortening in the circumferential direction); radial strain (myocardial wall thickening towards LV cavity center) and area strain (a deformation parameter combining longitudinal and circumferential strain) at the same time.
In the study, 49 patients with recent STEMI, successfully reperfused with primary PCI, were assessed by 3-D speckle tracking. The obtained LV strain parameters were compared with peak troponin I levels, as an estimate of the extent of myocardial cell injury. In a multivariable analysis, results showed that only circumferential strain emerged as a significant independent predictor of infarct size.
Furthermore, a subgroup of 27 patients who underwent additional assessment with delayed-enhancement MRI within 24 hours from the echocardiographic study were assessed; in this group, circumferential strain again showed the closest correlation with infarct size and the best predictive power to identify LV segments with transmural necrosis among all strain components.
“Our preliminary study demonstrates that 3-D circumferential strain could be used as an accurate and reproducible marker for infarct size estimation by ultrasound in STEMI patients,” says Muraru. Long-term follow-up, she adds, will be needed to verify if 3-D strain parameters improve the predictive prognostic value of conventional parameters after STEMI.
Study 2: Using 2-D speckle tracking to predict infarct size
A Bulgarian study concluded that longitudinal strain measured early after reperfusion with 2-D speckle-tracking may predict infarct size and LV remodeling.
Krasimira Hristova, M.D., and colleagues from the University National Heart Hospital (Sofia, Bulgaria) investigated the ability of STE using the vector velocity imaging technique to determine infarct size. The vector velocity technique measures both the amount and direction of strain.
In the study, 30 patients who had PCI for an acute MI within 24 hours were assessed with both vector velocity speckle tracking and intracoronary electrocardiography; they were compared to 20 normal volunteers who had not experienced an event. The later technique is an established procedure that maps areas of ischemia with guide wires during percutaneous procedures, providing the exact location and size of residual ischemia.
Results showed that in STEMI patients, radial and circumferential strain decreased in the infarct and perinfarct areas (immediate area around the infarct) and remote regions acutely in comparison with controls; but that longitudinal strain was only decreased in the actual infarct area and not in the perinfarct and remote regions.
“While longitudinal strain shows the best relationship to infarct size, we believe that radial and circumferential strain may be useful to predict the later development of adverse LV remodelling,” says Hristova.
In the next part of the study, she adds, they hope to be able to compare their initial results with the longer-term effects on LV remodeling.
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