Compared with transmitral velocities of flow, myocardial wall velocities obtained by tissue Doppler imaging are less influenced by left atrial pressure. The data supporting this assumption, however, are limited in patients with congenital cardiac disease. The aim of this study was to compare the effects of left ventricular preload on transmitral inflow and velocities assessed by tissue Doppler imaging. Tissue Doppler imaging, and conventional Doppler echocardiography with simultaneous invasive hemodynamic studies, were performed in 33 patients with a simple ventricular septal defect or patency of the arterial duct. Transmitral velocities (E, A) and mitral annular velocities (Ea, Aa) were measured, permitting calculation of the ratio of E to Ea. The ratio of pulmonary to systemic flows, and mean left atrial pressure, were also measured. In 10 of 33 patients, echocardiographic and hemodynamic studies were performed 4 to 5 months after surgery. The E and A values in the patients were greater than those in the controls (p < 0.01). In contrast, neither Ea nor Aa differed between the two group. The ratio of E to Ea in the patients increased significantly compared with that in the controls (8.9+/-2.1 vs 7.3+/-1.3, p < 0.01). The E value was directly related to mean left atrial pressure and the ratio of pulmonary to systemic flows. The velocities measured by Tissue Doppler imaging, however, had no significant relationship to either of these measurements. The ratio of E to Ea correlated well with mean left atrial pressure (r = 0.75, p < 0.01). In 10 post-operative patients, the values for E and A decreased from 119+/-14 to 89+/-10 cm/sec (p < 0.01) and from 91+/-22 to 61+/-9 cm/sec (p < 0.01), respectively. No significant changes were noted in the values of Ea and Aa. The ratio of E to Ea, and mean left atrial pressure, decreased from 10.3+/-1.9 to 8.2+/-1.5 (p < 0.01) and from 11.0+/-1.8 to 7.4+/-1.0 mmHg (p < 0.01), respectively. The percentage change in left atrial pressure correlated with the percent change in the ratio of E to Ea (r = 0.64, p < 0.05). The present study showed that the velocities obtained with tissue Doppler imaging are less dependent on mean left atrial pressure in children with elevated left ventricular preload caused by a left-to-right shunt.