The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of diastolic dysfunction of the left ventricle (LV) and of the right ventricle in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) without clinically evident cardiovascular manifestations and to estimate whether there is a correlation between the duration of RA and the degree of LV diastolic dysfunction. The study included 81 patients (61 females and 20 males) with RA without clinically evident heart disease (group 1) and 40 healthy subjects (29 females and 11 males) who served as a control group (group 2). Both groups were matched for age and sex. Echocardiographic and Doppler studies were conducted in all patients with RA and control subjects. There were significant differences between patients with RA vs. control group with regard to early diastolic flow velocity (E), atrial flow velocity (A) and the E/A ratio (0.68 +/- 0.19 m/s vs. 0.84 +/- 0.14 m/s, p < 0.001; 0.73 +/- 0.15 m/s vs. 0.66 +/- 0.13 cm/s, p = 0.01; and 0.97 +/- 0.3 vs. 1.32 +/- 0.37, p < 0.001, respectively). There was significant difference between groups regarding the right ventricular early diastolic (Er)/atrial (Ar) flow velocities (Er/Ar ratio) (1.07 +/- 0.3 vs. 1.26 +/- 0.3, p = 0.002). There was a weak correlation between transmitral E/A ratio and the duration of RA (r = - 0.22, p = 0.001). Myocardial performance index (MPI) appeared to differ little in patients with RA as compared with control group (0.51 +/- 0.1 vs. 0.52 +/- 0.2, p = NS). In patients with RA without clinically evident cardiovascular disease, the left ventricular diastolic function and the right ventricular diastolic function are reduced. Left ventricular wall thickness, dimensions, systolic function and MPI were found to be normal. LV diastolic function had a weak correlation with the duration of RA.