Market research firm Arlington Medical Resources recently found that the use of injectable perflutren microsphere ultrasound contrast agents has declined in the second quarter of this year.

The agents, which help to evaluate heart wall motion, fell to 22 percent of the usage just two years earlier.

In October 2007, the FDA placed a black box warning on ultrasound micro-bubble contrast agents after 10 deaths were reported following administration. Also documented were reports of 190 serious but non-fatal reactions.

Analysts say that the black box warnings in 2007 have impacted ultrasound contrast agents’ usage, even though the FDA revised its warning in May 2008.  However, they still maintain that agents continue to serve an important role in the overall echocardiography market because of their ability to enhance imaging quality for interpretation.

Additionally, the newly released edition of the U.S. Echocardiography Monthly Monitor reported that the total number of patients undergoing echocardiographies in the U.S. had declined by 17,095 in June 2008. The total number of patients undergoing contrast enhanced echocardiography for the U.S. market also declined slightly by 2,137.