Compliance of the left atrial chamber was estimated with and without the appendage intact in six isolated canine left atria. Pressure-volume determinations were measured over a range of 5-30 mmHg for the whole left atrium and were repeated with the appendage excluded. The slope of the pressure vs. normalized volume data for the left atrium without the appendage (10.45 +/- 0.87) was significantly greater (P less than 0.01) than with the appendage intact (4.10 +/- 0.72). These data suggest that the left atrial appendage is more compliant than the remaining left atrium. Assuming that this relationship remains in vivo, the left atrial appendage may play an augmented role in maintaining hemodynamic function when filling pressures are elevated.