It was hypothesised that, apart from right ventricular (RV) dysfunction, patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) also exhibit left ventricular (LV) impairment, which may affect disease progression and prognosis. The aim of the present study was to evaluate LV performance in a cohort of IPF patients using conventional and tissue Doppler ECG. IPF patients exhibiting mild-to-moderate pulmonary arterial hypertension (mean age 65+/-9 yrs; n = 22) and healthy individuals (mean age 61+/-6 yrs; n = 22) were studied. Conventional and tissue Doppler ECG were used for the evaluation of RV and LV systolic and diastolic function. In addition to the expected impairment in RV function, all patients showed a characteristic reversal of LV diastolic filling to late diastole compared with controls (early diastolic peak filling velocity (E)/late diastolic peak filling velocity 0.7+/-0.2 versus 1.5+/-0.1, respectively). Patients with IPF also exhibited lower peak myocardial velocities in early diastole (E(m); 5.7+/-1.1 versus 10.3+/-1.6 cm x s(-1), respectively), higher in late diastole (A(m); 8.9+/-1.3 versus 5.5+/-0.8 cm x s(-1), respectively), lower E(m)/A(m) ratio (0.6+/-0.1 versus 1.9+/-0.5, respectively) and higher E/E(m) ratio (10.8+/-3 versus 6+/-0.6, respectively), all indicative of LV diastolic dysfunction. Moreover, LV propagation velocity was significantly lower in IPF patients (46+/-13 versus 83+/-21 cm x s(-1), respectively). Physicians should be aware that patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis exhibit early impairment of left ventricular diastolic function.