BACKGROUND: Trastuzumab prolongs survival in patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor type 2-positive breast cancer. Sequential left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction (EF) assessment has been mandated to detect myocardial dysfunction because of the risk of heart failure with this treatment. Myocardial deformation imaging is a sensitive means of detecting LV dysfunction, but this technique has not been evaluated in patients treated with trastuzumab. The aim of this study was to investigate whether changes in tissue deformation, assessed by myocardial strain and strain rate (SR), are able to identify LV dysfunction earlier than conventional echocardiographic measures in patients treated with trastuzumab. METHODS: Sequential echocardiograms (n = 152) were performed in 35 female patients (51 +/- 8 years) undergoing trastuzumab therapy for human epidermal growth factor receptor type 2-positive breast cancer. Left ventricular EF was measured by 2- and 3-dimensional (2D and 3D) echocardiography, and myocardial deformation was assessed using tissue Doppler imaging and 2D-based (speckle-tracking) strain and SR. Change over time was compared every 3 months between baseline and 12 months. RESULTS: There was no overall change in 3D-EF, 2D-EF, myocardial E-velocity, or strain. However, there were significant reductions seen in tissue Doppler imaging SR (P < .05), 2D-SR (P < .001), and 2D radial SR (P < .001). A drop > or =1 SD in 2D longitudinal SR was seen in 18 (51%) patients; 13 (37%) had a similar drop in radial SR. Of the 18 patients with reduced longitudinal SR, 3 had a concurrent reduction in EF > or =10%, and another 2 showed a reduction over 20 months follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: Myocardial deformation identifies preclinical myocardial dysfunction earlier than conventional measures in women undergoing treatment with trastuzumab for breast cancer.