Left ventricular (LV) filling deceleration time (DT) is determined by the sum of atrial and ventricular stiffnesses (KLA + KLV). If KLA, however, is close to zero, then DT would reflect KLV only. The purpose of this study was to quantify KLA during DT. In 15 patients, KLV was assessed, immediately after cardiopulmonary bypass, from E wave DT as derived from mitral tracings obtained by transesophageal echocardiography and computed according to a validated formula. In each patient, a left atrial (LA) volume curve was also obtained combining mitral and pulmonary vein (PV) cumulative flow plus LA volume measured at end diastole. Time-adjusted LA pressure was measured simultaneously with Doppler data in all patients. KLA was then calculated during the ascending limb of the V loop and during DT. LA volume decreased by 7.3 +/- 6.5 ml/m2 during the first of mitral DT, whereas LV volume increased 9.4 +/- 8.4 ml/m2 (both P < 0.001). There was a small amount of blood coming from the PV during the same time interval, with the cumulative flow averaging 3.2 +/- 2.4 ml/m(2) (P < 0.001). Mean LA pressure was 10.0 +/- 5.1 mmHg, and it did not change during DT [from 7.8 +/- 4.3 to 8.0 +/- 4.3 mmHg, not significant (NS)], making KLA, which averaged 0.46 +/- 0.39 mmHg/ml during the V loop, close to zero during DT [KLA(DT): from -0.002 +/- 0.08 to -0.001 +/- 0.031 mmHg/ml, NS]. KLV, as assessed noninvasively from DT, averaged 0.25 +/- 0.32 mmHg/ml. In conclusion, notwithstanding the significant decrement in LA volume, KLA does not change and can be considered not different from zero during DT. Thus KLA does not affect the estimation of KLV from Doppler parameters.