Pulsed Doppler echocardiography was used to examine the relation between pulmonary valve motion and pulmonary artery (PA) flow velocity patterns in 39 adults. In 16 patients with normal PA pressure (mean pressure less than 20 mm Hg), PA flow velocity accelerated slowly to a peak flow velocity at midsystole (time to peak flow velocity, or acceleration time = 134 +/- 20 ms [mean +/- standard deviation]), followed by a slow deceleration to the end of ejection, producing a "dome-like" appearance. In contrast, in 23 patients with elevated PA pressure (mean pressure 20 mm Hg or more), flow velocity accelerated rapidly to a peak flow velocity in early systole (acceleration time = 88 +/- 25 ms, p less than 0.01), followed by rapid flow velocity deceleration to a nadir in midsystole. In 13 of these patients, a transient increase in flow velocity occurred in late systole, producing a "spike and dome" appearance. In patients with an acceleration time of 120 ms or less, there was a negative linear correlation with mean PA pressure, expressed by the equation: mean PA pressure = 90 - (0.62 X acceleration time). The standard error of the estimate was 8.3 mm Hg. A similar negative linear correlation was found between PA acceleration time and total pulmonary resistance. Using a PA acceleration time of 100 ms or less resulted in a 78% sensitivity and a 100% specificity for detection of elevated PA pressure. Although this Doppler method cannot precisely estimate PA pressure, it can be helpful in separating patients with normal pressure from those with elevated PA pressure.