Left ventricular function and motion in 12 adults with an ostium secundum atrial septal defect were analyzed utilizing biplane cineangiography. Values for left ventricular end-diastolic volume index, stroke volume index, ejection fraction, left ventricular end-diastolic pressure and mean rate of circumferential fiber shortening were compared with values in an age-matched group of 11 normal subjects. Comparisons of ventriculographic and echocardiographic data were also made in 5 patients and 10 control subjects. Cardiac index was smaller in patients than in the normal subjects (3.6 vs. 4.5 liters/min per m2, P less than 0.01). Although left ventricular end-diastolic pressure was similar (8 mm Hg in both groups), the end-diastolic volume index was significantly smaller in patients than in normal subjects (56 vs. 76 ml/m2, P less than 0.05). Stroke volume index was also significantly smaller in patients (40 vs. 52 ml/m2, P less than 0.01). The two groups had similar values for ejection fraction (65 +/- 2 percent [standard error of the mean] in patients vs. 68 +/- 2 percent in normal subjects), circumferential fiber shortening velocity (1.67 +/- 0.13 vs. 1.81 +/- 0.15 circumferences/sec.), heart rate (91 +/- 7 vs. 90 +/- 5 beats/min) and mean systemic arterial pressure (92 +/- 5 vs. 87 +/- 3 mm Hg). Early systolic bulging of the upper ventricular septum toward the right ventricle was seen in 10 of 12 patients with an atrial septal defect but in no normal subject. Echocardiographic data supported these findings. No other abnormalities of motion were consistently noted. It is concluded that the left ventricle of patients with an atrial septal defect is subnormal in volume and abnormal in sequence of contraction of the septum and is characterized by apparent decreased distensibility.