Prospective echocardiographic assessment of androgenic-anabolic steroids effects on cardiac structure and function in strength athletes

F. Hartgens*, E.C. Cherieux, H. Kuipers

*Corresponding author for this work

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Prospective echocardiographic assessment of androgenic-anabolic steroids effects on cardiac structure and function in strength athletes.

Hartgens F, Cheriex EC, Kuipers H.

Netherlands Centre for Doping Affairs, Capelle aan den IJssel, The Netherlands.

Since the abuse of androgenic-anabolic steroids (AAS) has been associated with the occurrence of serious cardiovascular disease in young athletes, we performed two studies to investigate the effects of short-term AAS administration on heart structure and function in experienced male strength athletes, with special reference to dose and duration of drug abuse. In Study 1 the effects of AAS were assessed in 17 experienced male strength athletes (age 31 +/- 7 y) who self-administered AAS for 8 or 12 - 16 weeks and in 15 non-using strength athletes (age 33 +/- 5 y) in a non-blinded design. In Study 2 the effects of administration of nandrolone decanoate (200 mg/wk i. m.) for eight weeks were investigated in 16 bodybuilders in a randomised double blind, placebo controlled design. In all subjects M-mode and two-dimensional Doppler-echocardiography were performed at baseline and after 8 weeks AAS administration. In the athletes of Study 1 who used AAS for 12 - 16 weeks a third echocardiogram was also made at the end of the AAS administration period. Echocardiographic examinations included the determination of the aortic diameter (AD), left atrium diameter (LA), left ventricular end diastolic diameter (LVEDD), interventricular septum thickness (IVS), posterior wall end diastolic wall thickness (PWEDWT), left ventricular mass (LVM), left ventricular mass index (LVMI), ejection fraction (EF) and right ventricular diameter (RVD). For assessment of the diastolic function measurements of E and A peak velocities and calculation of E/A ratio were used. In addition, acceleration and deceleration times of the E-top (ATM and DT, respectively) were determined. For evaluation of factors associated with stroke volume the aorta peak flow (AV) and left ventricular ejection times (LVET) were determined. In Study 1 eight weeks AAS self-administration did not result in changes of blood pressure or cardiac size and function. Additionally, duration of AAS self-administration did not have any impact on these parameters. Study 2 revealed that eight weeks administration of nandrolone decanoate did not induce significant alterations in blood pressure and heart morphology and function. Short-term administration of AAS for periods up to 16 weeks did not lead to detectable echocardiographic alterations of heart morphology and systolic and diastolic function in experienced strength athletes. The administration regimen used nor the length of AAS abuse did influence the results. Moreover, it is concluded that echocardiographic evaluation may provide incomplete assessment of the actual cardiac condition in AAS users since it is not sensitive enough to detect alterations at the cellular level. Nevertheless, from the present study no conclusions can be drawn of the cardiotoxic effects of long term AAS abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-351
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003

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