Diastolic dysfunction is an important cause of cardiac heart failure. To date detailed assessment of diastolic left ventricular (LV) function has required invasive methods which are impractical in the clinical routine. The prevailing non-invasive method has been Doppler echocardiography with use of mitral inflow and pulmonary vein inflow parameters, measurements providing no direct assessment of either ventricular relaxation or compliance, and influenced by multiple haemodynamic factors. We sought to determine the tissue Doppler pattern from the mitral annulus motion in normals and in patients with expected LV-diastolic dysfunction. Using pulsed tissue Doppler we recorded peak velocities from the mitral annulus motion in 16 young normals, 10 older normals and in two groups of patients expected to have an LV-diastolic relaxation abnormality, i.e. 15 patients with systemic hypertension and 10 patients with significant aortic stenosis. The peak early diastolic (E) annulus velocity was significantly (P < 0.001) lower in older normals compared with young, and the late diastolic velocity (A) was higher (P < 0.01). Compared with the older normals, patients showed significantly lower E-velocities (P < 0.05 hypertensive patients), more pronounced in the patients with aortic stenosis (P < 0.001), but the A-velocities were not higher. In systole a decrease in peak velocity was noted with increasing age and in patients with aortic stenosis. In conclusion, pulsed tissue Doppler measurement of annulus motion seems to provide valuable and easily obtainable information about LV-diastolic function, and furthermore there is striking change in velocity pattern with increasing age which necessitates age-matched reference values.