Objectives. This study was designed to determine the blood elements responsible for spontaneous echocardiographic contrast.Background. Spontaneous contrast or “smoke” is an echocardiographic image usually found in low flow conditions. Two blood elements, erythrocytes and platelets, have been related to the generation of smoke.Methods. The echogenicity of percine blood products was assessed in static and flow conditions and was graded on a digitized videodensity computer program that assigned a score of 0 for black and 100 for white images. Blood elements were circulated from a small tube (4-mm diameter) into a larger cylindric chamber (30-mm diameter) under controlled flow rate conditions. The following blood products were studied: whole blood, platelet-depleted blood, platelet-rich plasma, platelet-poor plasma, erythrocytes suspended in saline solution, adenosine dipbosphate (ADP) added to platelet-rich plasma, and saline solution as a control medium.Results. As blood flow was increased in 30 ml/min increments from 0 to 180 ml/min, whole blood echo videodensity (scale 0 to 100) progressively decreased in the larger tube from 38 and 42 to 20, 12, 14, 16 and 14, respectively. When flow increased from 0 to 30 ml/min in the smaller tube, corresponding to a wall shear rate of 0 to 80 s−1, the blood entering the chamber was completely echolucent. The echogenicity of blood products in the larger tube was for static flow (0 ml/min) and high flow (180 ml/min), respectively: platelet-depleted blood = 36 and 14; platelet-rich plasma = 2 and 2; platelet-poor plasma = 0 and 0; erythrocytes in saline solution = 8 and 12; ADP added to platelet-rich plasma = 0 and 15; saline solution = 0 and 0. Because platelets alone were nonechogenic but platetet-depleted blood produced a flow-dependent echogenicity similar to that produced by whole blood, platelets may not be involved in the production of smoke. However, when platelets were aggregated by ADP, they were echogenic but in dense clumps and in a flow-independent pattern not typical of the smokelike images. Erythrocytes suspended in saline solution had an intermediate density image.Conclusions. Echogenic smoke appears to be due primarily to the interection of red blood cells and plasma proteins at low flow and low shear rate conditions.