A national registry was begun in 1981 to collect data from 32 centers on patients diagnosed by uniform criteria as having primary pulmonary hypertension. Entered into the registry were 187 patients with a mean age (+/- SD) of 36 +/- 15 years (range, 1 to 81), and a female-to-male ratio of 1.7:1 overall. The mean interval from onset of symptoms to diagnosis was 2 years. The most frequent presenting symptoms included dyspnea (60%), fatigue (19%), and syncope (or near syncope) (13%). Raynaud phenomenon was present in 10% (95% of whom were female) and a positive antinuclear antibody test, in 29% (69% female). Pulmonary function studies showed mild restriction (forced vital capacity [FVC], 82% of predicted) with a reduced diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO), and hypoxemia with hypocapnia. The mean (+/- SD) right atrial pressure was 9.7 +/- 6 mm Hg; mean pulmonary artery pressure, 60 +/- 18 mm Hg; cardiac index, 2.3 +/- 0.9 L/min X m2; and pulmonary vascular resistance index, 26 +/- 14 mm Hg/L/min X m2 for the group. Although no deaths or sustained morbid events occurred during the diagnostic evaluation of the patients, the typically long interval from initial symptoms to diagnosis emphasizes the need to develop strategies to make the diagnosis earlier.