OBJECTIVE: To use quantitative myocardial contrast echocardiography (MCE) and strain rate imaging (SRI) to assess the role of microvascular disease in subclinical diabetic cardiomyopathy. METHODS: Stress MCE and SRI were performed in 48 patients (22 with type II diabetes mellitus (DM) and 26 controls), all with normal left ventricular systolic function and no obstructive coronary disease by quantitative coronary angiography. Real-time MCE was acquired in three apical views at rest and after combined dipyridamole-exercise stress. Myocardial blood flow (MBF) was quantified in the 10 mid- and apical cardiac segments at rest and after stress. Resting peak systolic strain rate (SR) and peak systolic strain (epsilon) were calculated in the same 10 myocardial segments. RESULTS: The DM and control groups were matched for age, sex and other risk factors, including hypertension. The DM group had higher body mass index and left ventricular mass index. Quantitative SRI analysis was possible in all patients and quantitative MCE in 46 (96%). The mean epsilon, SR and MBF reserve were all significantly lower in the DM group than in controls, with diabetes the only independent predictor of each parameter. No correlation was seen between MBF and SR (r = -0.01, p = 0.54) or between MBF and epsilon (r = -0.20, p = 0.20). CONCLUSIONS: Quantitative MCE shows that patients with diabetes but no evidence of obstructive coronary artery disease have impaired MBF reserve, but abnormal transmural flow and subclinical longitudinal myocardial dysfunction are not related.