The widespread use of anthracycline chemotherapy has contributed to improved outcomes in children with cancer. The most feared complication of the anthracyclines is cardiotoxicity. Routine echocardiographic monitoring typically is used before, during, and after treatment to minimize cardiotoxicity. The ideal use of screening before and during chemotherapy remains uncertain.
This was a retrospective review of children who were treated at a single cancer treatment center over 5 years. The results of all echocardiograms and related clinical decisions were reviewed.
In 356 patients who were identified for review (age range, 3 months to 22 years; mean age, 10 years; median age, 11 years), 991 echocardiograms were reviewed (average, 2.78 echocardiograms per patient; median, 2 echocardiograms per patient; mode, 1; maximum, 11 echocardiograms per patient). Nine abnormal echocardiograms were identified (2.5% of patients and 0.9% of echocardiograms performed). Four echocardiograms were performed during episodes of septic shock, 2 echocardiograms represented false-positive studies after repeat evaluation, and 1 echocardiogram demonstrated mild abnormality of function on the day of surgical resection of a large Wilms tumor. None of the 356 pretreatment echocardiograms altered treatment decisions. In 635 follow-up echocardiograms during treatment, cardiac defects were detected in 2 patients (0.5%).
The routine use of echocardiograms to screen for anthracycline-induced cardiac damage before and during chemotherapy rarely identified significant cardiac damage to impact treatment decisions. Improved screening techniques with better discrimination and predictability are needed. Pediatric Oncology cooperative groups should consider a revision of standard monitoring protocols before and during treatment. Cancer 2012;. © 2011 American Cancer Society.