When right ventricular (RV) afterload is abnormally increased, it correlates inversely with right ventricular ejection fraction (RVEF). We tested, whether this would be different with normal afterload. Additionally, we investigated whether previous studies on the slope of RV preload recruitable stroke work (SW) relation, which used rather non-physiological measures to change RV preload, could be transferred to more physiological loading conditions. RV volumes were determined by thermodilution in 16 patients with stable coronary artery disease and normal pulmonary artery pressure (PAP) at rest. Pre- and afterload were varied by body posture, nitroglycerin (NTG) application and by exercise at different body positions. At rest, the change from recumbent to sitting position decreased PAP, cardiac index (Ci), RV diastolic and systolic volumes, and RVEF. Additionally, mean pulmonary artery pressure (MPAP) correlated positively with both RVEF and cardiac index. After correction for mathematical coupling, the RV preload recruitable SW relation was: right ventricular stroke work index (RVSWi) (103 erg m-2)= 8.1 x (RV end-diastolic volume index -4.9), with n=96, r=0.57, P< or =0.001. Exercise abolished this correlation and led to an inverse correlation between RV end-systolic volume (ESV) and RVSW. In conclusion, (i) RVEF correlates positively with RV afterload when afterload varies within normal range; (ii) the slope of the RV preload recruitable SW relation, which is obtained at steady state under normal loading conditions, is substantially flatter than previously described for dynamic changes of RV preload. With increasing afterload, preload loses its determining effect on RV performance, while afterload becomes more important. This puts earlier assumptions of an afterload independent RV preload recruitable SW relation into question.