The objective of this study was to determine the utility of Doppler tissue echocardiography in the evaluation of diastolic filling and in discriminating between normal subjects and those with various stages of diastolic dysfunction. We measured myocardial velocities in 51 patients with various stages of diastolic dysfunction and in 27 normal volunteers. The discriminating power of each of the standard Doppler indexes of left ventricular filling, pulmonary venous flow, and myocardial velocities was determined with the use of Spearman rank correlation and analysis of variance F statistics. Early diastolic myocardial velocity (E(m)) was higher in normal subjects (16.0 +/- 3.8 cm/s) than in patients with either delayed relaxation (n = 15, 7.5 +/- 2.2 cm/s), pseudonormal filling (n = 26, 7.6 +/- 2.3 cm/s), or restrictive filling (n = 10, 7.4 +/- 2.4 cm/s, P <.0001). E(m ) was the best single discriminator between control subjects and patients with diastolic dysfunction (P =.7, F = 64.5). Myocardial velocities assessed by Doppler tissue echocardiography are useful in differentiating patients with normal from those with abnormal diastolic function. Myocardial velocity remains reduced even in those stages of diastolic dysfunction characterized by increased preload compensation.