Impact of Anemia on Exercise and Pharmacologic Stress Echocardiography

Jared G. Bird, Kareem Morant, Deema Al-Souri, Christopher G. Scott, Ratnasari Padang, Robert B. McCully, Garvan C. Kane, Patricia A. Pellikka, Sushil Allen Luis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The safety and diagnostic accuracy of stress testing in anemic patients have not been well studied. Despite a lack of data, significant anemia may be considered a relative contraindication to stress testing because of safety concerns related to insufficient myocardial oxygen supply. Methods: The authors reviewed 28,829 consecutive patients with blood hemoglobin drawn within 48 hours of stress echocardiography (15,624 exercise and 13,205 dobutamine). The associations of blood hemoglobin concentration with arrhythmia and other stress echocardiographic findings were examined. Additionally, the effect of anemia on the positive predictive value of stress echocardiography for the detection of significant coronary artery stenosis (≥50%) was assessed in patients who subsequently underwent coronary angiography. Results: Anemia was present in 6,401 patients (22.2%) and was severe (hemoglobin < 8.0 g/dL) in 52. Stress testing with either exercise or dobutamine was safe, with no significant increase in serious arrhythmia events or need for hospitalization. In the exercise cohort, worsening anemia was associated with reduced treadmill exercise time, lower peak heart rate, peak rate-pressure product, and achieved workload. In the dobutamine stress cohort, worsening anemia was associated with higher resting heart rate, more use of atropine, and fewer patients attaining target heart rate. The positive predictive value of stress echocardiography was higher in patients with moderate anemia compared with those without anemia (71.8% vs 60.2%, P = .01). Conclusions: This study demonstrates that stress testing is safe in patients with mild and moderately anemia, albeit with a small increase in mild supraventricular arrhythmias with exercise. However, worsening anemia was associated with a significant reduction in exercise capacity. Additionally, worsening anemia was associated with an improvement in the positive predictive value of stress echocardiography. Extrapolation of these data to patients with severe anemia should be performed with caution given the limited number of patients with severe anemia in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1067-1076
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Society of Echocardiography
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Anemia
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Dobutamine stress echocardiography
  • Echocardiography
  • Exercise stress echocardiography
  • Stress testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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