This study assesses how the newer modalities of tissue Doppler echocardiography and color M-mode flow propagation compare with respiratory variation of Doppler flow in distinguishing between constrictive pericarditis and restrictive cardiomyopathy. We studied 30 patients referred for further evaluation of diastolic function who had a diagnosis of constrictive pericarditis or restrictive cardiomyopathy established by diagnostic tests, including clinical assessment, magnetic resonance imaging, cardiac catheterization, endomyocardial biopsy, and surgical findings. Nineteen patients had constrictive pericarditis and 11 had restrictive cardiomyopathy. We performed 2-dimensional transesophageal echocardiography combined with pulsed-wave Doppler of the pulmonary veins and mitral inflow with respiratory monitoring, tissue Doppler echocardiography of the lateral mitral annulus, and color M-mode flow propagation of left ventricular filling. Respiratory variation of the mitral inflow peak early (peak E) velocity of > or =10% predicted constrictive pericarditis with 84% sensitivity and 91% specificity and variation in the pulmonary venous peak diastolic (peak D) flow velocity of > or =18% distinguished constriction with 79% sensitivity and 91% specificity. Using tissue Doppler echocardiography, a peak early velocity of longitudinal expansion (peak Ea) of > or =8.0 cm/s differentiated patients with constriction from restriction with 89% sensitivity and 100% specificity. A slope of > or =100 cm/s for the first aliasing contour in color M-mode flow propagation predicted patients with constriction with 74% sensitivity and 91% specificity. Thus, the newer methods of tissue Doppler echocardiography and color M-mode flow propagation are equivalent and complimentary with Doppler respiratory variation in distinguishing between constrictive pericarditis and restrictive cardiomyopathy. The additive role of the new methods needs to be established in difficult cases of constrictive pericarditis where respiratory variation may be absent or decreased.