Cardiac surgery in 602 children was not preceded by cardiac catheterization, the diagnosis being based on clinical findings and two-dimensional and Doppler echocardiography. In the 355 operations without cardiopulmonary bypass there were nine major and seven minor diagnostic errors (2.5% and 2%). Among the 247 cases with open-heart surgery there were no major and eight (3.2%) minor errors. The malformations most suitable for nonbypass surgery without catheterization seem to be those with reduced pulmonary blood flow requiring systemic-pulmonary artery shunt, aortic coarctation and patent ductus arteriosus. For open-heart surgery without invasive investigation, atrial septal defect, partial atrioventricular canal, aortic and pulmonary stenosis, cardiac tumor and isolated valve disorder are 'classic' candidates. Recent experience indicated that selected cases of complete atrioventricular canal, tetralogy of Fallot, truncus arteriosus, total anomalous pulmonary venous connection and transposition of the great arteries may safely undergo primary repair without cardiac catheterization. Because of its diagnostic potentialities, pediatric cardiac surgeons must become familiar with echocardiography.