We examined the cases of 31 patients over the age of 50 years undergoing operative closure of isolated ostium secundum atrial septal defect. The lesion had been diagnosed in all cases prior to cardiac catheterization. To assess the importance of pre-operative data on surgical outcome, the patients were first divided into three groups according to mean pulmonary artery pressure (PAP): less than 16 mmHg (Group A), 16-30 mmHg (Group B) and greater than 30 mmHg (Group C). Symptomatic improvement occurred in all groups but more patients in Group C, although symptomatically improved, remained short of breath and in atrial fibrillation than in Group A. Patients in Group A had a higher actual forced vital capacity expressed as a percentage of the predicted value (FVCa/FVCp) than patients in Group B or Group C (P less than 0.015). There was a good correlation between FVCa/FVCp and percentage oxygen saturation of the arterial blood (P less than 0.0009). This simple non-invasive investigation was therefore found to correlate with previously documented parameters, pulmonary artery pressure and percentage oxygen saturation of the arterial blood, affecting surgical outcome. Patients were also divided into groups according to FVCa/FVCp: less than 75% (Group 1), 50-75% (Group 2) and less than 50% (Group 3). Postoperative symptoms were more common in Group 3 than in Group 1. We conclude that respiratory function tests, as well as measurement of pulmonary artery pressures, are useful in predicting improvement following atrial septal repair.