Fabry's disease is an X-linked recessive genetic deficiency of the enzyme alpha-galactosidase A, which leads to the pathologic deposition of neutral glycosphingolipids in lysosomes of the vascular endothelium of the heart, brain and kidney. The disease is progressive in hemizygous male patients, with increasing involvement of the major organs leading to death. Because cardiac involvement is a constant feature, echocardiograms were performed on 35 patients with Fabry's disease, 23 hemizygotes (aged 28.6 +/- 14 years) and 12 heterozygotes (aged 31.6 +/- 6 years), to determine whether cardiac involvement could be detected noninvasively. The results demonstrated that hemizygous male patients had a greater aortic root diameter, thicker interventricular septum and greater ventricular mass than did heterozygous female patients. Left ventricular mass per square meter of body surface area correlated well with clinical disease severity (r = 0.68, p less than 0.05), suggesting progressive glycosphingolipid deposition. Older heterozygotes (greater than 25 years old) had more severe evidence of cardiac disease than did younger male patients. Although mitral valve prolapse was identified in 12 (54%) of 23 male hemizygotes and in 7 (58%) of 12 female heterozygotes its presence did not correlate with clinical disease severity or other echocardiographic variables. Therefore, echocardiographic evidence of Fabry's disease appears to correlate with age-related disease severity and may be a useful noninvasive marker to follow disease progression and possible regression when appropriate therapy becomes available.