Left atrial (LA) volume measurements have been made by the application of the method of discs (modified Simpson's rule) to orthogonal biplane atrial echocardiographic images. Validation of the technique has been suboptimal due to deficiencies of the reference standard, levophase angiography. To define the accuracy of echocardiography, we compared LA end-systolic volume by echocardiography in 27 patients with volumes by cine computed tomography (Cine CT), a highly accurate and validated method of measuring cardiac chambers. Echocardiographic tracings were made in the apical long-axis two- and four-chamber views. In patients with atria less than 300 ml, 14 had echoes performed prospectively, with optimization of LA size, while the remaining 10 were analyzed retrospectively. The volume of each slice was calculated and was then summated to obtain total volume. The correlation coefficient between two-dimensional echocardiography and Cine CT was r = 0.98, and it was r = 0.82 when patients with atria greater than 300 ml (n = 3) were excluded. Echocardiography underestimated Cine CT measurements by 23%. The slope of the prospective group was closer to unity than the slope of the retrospective group (p less than 0.001), and the correlation with Cine CT was slightly better for the prospective group (r = 0.88 versus r = 0.77). LA volume by two-dimensional echocardiography correlates closely with Cine CT, a more accurate method of volume determination, and gives valid measurements of LA volume. Efforts to maximize LA size during scanning limit inaccuracies of echocardiographic measurements of the left atrium.