Clinically apparent myocardial disease is infrequent in sarcoidosis. However, autopsy data show myocardial involvement in up to 30 percent of patients. Unexplained exertional symptomatology is a common complaint in patients with sarcoidosis. In this study, we investigated whether abnormal cardiac function might limit exercise performance in patients with sarcoidosis without overt cardiac involvement. We studied exercise responses in 35 patients with sarcoidosis and compared them with 28 untrained controls. Seventy-seven percent of the patients were symptomatic. Pulmonary function test results were lower in the group with sarcoidosis than normal controls, but they were within normal range. Only one patient had evidence of ventilatory limitation to exercise. Sixteen (46 percent) patients had abnormally increased heart rates (HRs) at rest prior to exercise testing and/or with exercise. Rapid HRs were confirmed during daily activities by continuous ambulatory electrocardiographic (ECG) monitoring. Left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) was measured to determine if systolic dysfunction could account for abnormal HR responses. Of patients with abnormally increased HRs, five had LVEFs less than 50 percent, and eight had normal LVEFs, of whom 75 percent had tachycardia at rest. Retrospective comparison of HR responses and LVEF between patients who did or did not receive corticosteroids revealed no significant differences between groups. We conclude that abnormal HR responses in patients without evident cardiac sarcoidosis are common and exertional symptoms in this population are often associated with chronotropic abnormalities. The exact mechanisms underlying the chronotropic abnormalities are unclear, but they likely include ventricular systolic dysfunction, sinus node dysfunction from granulomatous infiltration, or combinations of the two.