We have investigated the possibility of detecting early abnormalities of left ventricular function at the initial phase of ischemic cardiomyopathy. Sixteen normotensive patients with coronary artery disease and normal left ventricular ejection fraction and 6 control patients were studied by invasive hemodynamic techniques in combination with transmitral Doppler flow or with echo-tissue Doppler imaging. The extent of the percentage of left ventricular longitudinal shortening and the systolic peak velocity at echo-tissue Doppler were significantly higher in the control patients than in patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy (P <.01). Left ventricular end-diastolic pressure was higher (P <.05), whereas mean values of isovolumic contraction and relaxation indexes (dP/dt/P: P <.05; +dP/dt: P <.05; -dP/dt: P <.01) were lower in patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy. Tau was significantly longer in ischemic patients (42.7 +/- 8.8 versus 34.5 +/- 3.7 ms, P <.05). In the control patients, the aortic valve closure to peak E interval by transmitral Doppler flow was significantly longer than that measured by echo-tissue Doppler (P <.001), whereas in patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy, this interval difference was still present and significantly shorter (P <.05). In patients with coronary artery disease and normal ejection fraction, minor and early abnormalities of left ventricular function related to isovolumic contraction and relaxation as well as to longitudinal shortening could be detected. In addition, a suction-like effect, detected during early filling evaluation with echo-tissue Doppler, is significantly decreased but not abolished during the early stages of coronary artery disease.