Previous studies have shown that type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM) is associated with cardiovascular abnormalities. Early detection and treatment of these abnormalities may help to prevent the natural progression of the disease. The present study was undertaken to define early cardiovascular abnormalities in children with type 1 DM. Simultaneous evaluation of multiple cardiovascular parameters was performed in 14 children with type 1 DM and 14 age-and gender-matched normal subjects. Measurements of carotid artery intima-media thickness (cIMT, echocardiography), carotid and aortic (ascending and abdominal) distensibility (echocardiography, brachial artery blood pressure), aortic pulse wave velocity (carotid to femoral artery, Doppler), and left ventricular dimensions, mass, and function (echocardiography) were performed. Diabetic children demonstrated a greater cIMT (0.36 +/- 0.04 mm vs 0.31 +/- 0.03 mm, p = 0.002) and decreased carotid artery distensibility (4.4 +/- 1.6 cm(2) . dynes(-1) . 10(-6) vs 6.0 +/- 1.9 cm(2) . dynes(-1) .10(-6), p < 0.01) compared to control. Aortic pulse wave velocity was increased in DM (6.70 +/- 0.39 vs 6.30 +/- 0.31, p = 0.02) compared to control. Left ventricular diameters, mass, and systolic and diastolic function did not differ between the 2 groups. Simultaneous assessment of multiple cardiovascular parameters in children with type 1 DM revealed impaired carotid artery structure and function, and decreased elastic properties of the aorta, before demonstrable changes in left ventricular structure and function could be detected.