The purpose of the study was to evaluate the value of magnetic resonance imaging as compared with two-dimensional echocardiography for a reliable assessment of the degree and distribution of apical hypertrophy in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The study includes 10 HCM patients (8 males and 2 females, mean age: 42 +/- 7 years). Two-dimensional echocardiography was not definitive in assessing the abnormal thickening of the apical myocardium in two patients. Two other patients had inadequate echocardiographic visualization of the lower left ventricle due to technical reasons. At magnetic resonance imaging, 3 patients showed localized hypertrophy at the left ventricular apex only. Three other patients had evidence of hypertrophy at the apex as well as at the left ventricular free wall. In four patients, the hypertrophy was detected at either the apex or the lower interventricular septum. It is concluded that magnetic resonance imaging might provide an accurate assessment of myocardial hypertrophy in HCM patients. This technique appears to be of major value in those with wall thickening localized to (or predominant in) the apical portion of the ventricle.