The detection of viable myocardium has important implications for management, but use of stress echocardiography to detect this is subjective and requires exposure to dobutamine. We investigated whether cyclic variation (CV) of integrated backscatter (IB) from the apical views could provide a resting study for detection of contractile reserve (CR) and prediction of myocardial viability in 27 patients with chronic ischemic left ventricular (LV) dysfunction. Repeat echocardiography was performed after 6.7 +/- 3.8 months of follow-up; 14 patients underwent revascularization and 13 were treated medically. Using a standardized dobutamine echocardiography (DbE) protocol, images from three apical views were acquired at 80-120 frames/sec at rest and during stress. CR was identified if improvement of wall motion was observed at low dose (5 or 10 microg/kg/min) DbE. Myocardial viability was characterized by improvement at follow-up echocardiography in patients with revascularization. CVIB at rest and low dose dobutamine were assessed in 194 segments with resting asynergy (severe hypokinesis or akinesis), of which 88 (45%) were in patients who underwent revascularization. Of these, CVIB could be measured in 190 (98%) segments at rest and 185 (95%) at low dose dobutamine. Sixty-two (33%) segments had CR during low dose DbE and 50 (57%) segments showed wall-motion recovery (myocardial viability) at follow-up echocardiography. Segments with CR had significantly higher CVIB at rest (P < 0.001) and low dose dobutamine (P = 0.005) than segments without CR. Using optimal thresholds of CVIB (> 8.2 dB) at rest, the accuracy of CVIB for detecting CR was 70%. Compared with nonviable segments, viable segments had significantly higher CVIB at rest (P < 0.001) and low dose dobutamine (P < 0.001). Using optimal thresholds of CVIB (> 5.3 dB) at rest, the accuracy of CVIB for detecting myocardial viability was 85%, which was higher than that in conventional DbE (62%, P < 0.01). Thus, assessment of CVIB from the apical views is a feasible and accurate tool for detecting CR and predicting myocardial viability in chronic LV dysfunction.