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N Engl J Med. 2007 Jan 4;356(1):39-46.

Valvular heart disease and the use of dopamine agonists for Parkinson's disease.

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  • 1Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit, Istituti Clinici di Perfezionamento, Milan, Italy.



Ergot-derived dopamine receptor agonists, often used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, have been associated with an increased risk of valvular heart disease.


We performed an echocardiographic prevalence study in 155 patients taking dopamine agonists for Parkinson's disease (pergolide, 64 patients; cabergoline, 49; and non-ergot-derived dopamine agonists, 42) and 90 control subjects. Valve regurgitation was assessed according to American Society of Echocardiography recommendations. The mitral-valve tenting area was also measured and used as a quantitative index for leaflet stiffening and apical displacement of leaflet coaptation.


Clinically important regurgitation (moderate to severe, grade 3 to 4) in any valve was found with significantly greater frequency in patients taking pergolide (23.4%) or cabergoline (28.6%) but not in patients taking non-ergot-derived dopamine agonists (0%), as compared with control subjects (5.6%). The relative risk for moderate or severe valve regurgitation in the pergolide group was 6.3 for mitral regurgitation (P=0.008), 4.2 for aortic regurgitation (P=0.01), and 5.6 for tricuspid regurgitation (P=0.16); corresponding relative risks in the cabergoline group were 4.6 (P=0.09), 7.3 (P<0.001), and 5.5 (P=0.12). The mean mitral tenting area was significantly greater in ergot-treated patients and showed a linear relationship with the severity of mitral regurgitation. Patients treated with ergot derivatives who had grade 3 to 4 regurgitation of any valve had received a significantly higher mean cumulative dose of pergolide or cabergoline than had patients with lower grades.


The frequency of clinically important valve regurgitation was significantly increased in patients taking pergolide or cabergoline, but not in patients taking non-ergot-derived dopamine agonists, as compared with control subjects. These findings should be considered in evaluating the risk-benefit ratio of treatment with ergot derivatives.

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