Indexes of left ventricular (LV) diastolic filling were measured by pulse Doppler echocardiography in 16 asymptomatic morbidity obese patients presenting for bariatric surgery and were compared with an age- and sex-matched lean control population. No patient had concomitant disorders known to affect diastolic function. All patients had normal systolic function. LV wall thickness and internal dimension were measured in order to calculate LV mass. Fifty percent of morbidly obese patients had LV diastolic filling abnormalities as assessed by the presence of greater than or equal to 2 abnormal variables of mitral inflow velocity. The ratio of peak early to peak late (atrial) filling velocity was significantly decreased in obese compared with control patients (1.16 +/- 0.26 vs 1.66 +/- 0.30, p less than 0.001). The peak velocity of early LV diastolic filling was significantly reduced in obese patients (75 +/- 15 vs 98 +/- 19 cm/s, p less than 0.001). The atrial contribution to stroke velocity as assessed by the time-velocity integral of late compared with total LV diastolic filling was significantly increased in obese patients (36 +/- 7 vs 27 +/- 4%, p less than 0.001). Obese patients had significantly increased LV mass (214 +/- 45 vs 138 +/- 37 g, p less than 0.001), even when corrected for body surface area (95 +/- 16 vs 76 +/- 16 g/m2, p less than 0.002). However, increased LV mass did not correlate with indexes of abnormal diastolic filling in obese patients. These data suggest that abnormalities of diastolic function occur frequently in asymptomatic morbidly obese patients and may represent a subclinical form of cardiomyopathy in the obese patient.