The stability of contrast agents in suspensions with various dissolved gas levels has not been reported in the literature. An in vitro investigation has been carried out that studied the combined effect of varying the acoustic pressure along with degassing the suspension environment. In this study, the contrast agents were introduced into suspensions with different oxygen concentration levels, and their relative performance was assessed in terms of decay rate of their backscatter echoes. The partial pressures of oxygen in those solutions ranged between 1.5 and 26 kPa. Two IV and one arterial contrast agents were used: Definity, Quantison (TM), and Myomap (TM). It was found that Quantison (TM) and Myomap (TM) released free bubbles at high acoustic pressure that also dissolved faster in degassed suspensions. The backscatter decay for Definity did not depend on the air content of the suspensions. The destruction of bubbles was dependent on acoustic pressure. Different backscatter performance was observed by different populations of bubbles of the last two agents. The physical quantity of "overall backscatter" (OB) was defined as the integral of the decay rate over time of the backscatter of the contrast suspensions, and improved significantly the understanding of the behaviour of the agents. A quantitative analysis of the backscatter properties of contrast agents using a continuous imaging approach was difficult to achieve. This is due to the fact that the backscatter in the field of view is representative of a bubble population affected by the ultrasound (US) field, but this bubble population is not representative of the contrast suspension in the whole tank. Single frame insonation is suggested to avoid the effects of decay due to the ultrasonic field, and to measure a tank-representative backscatter. The definition of OB was useful, however, in understanding the behaviour of the agents. (C) 2001 World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology.