Previous studies have shown that a normal LVEF is not a reliable index of LV function in MR. We hypothesized that the forward EF, which is the forward stroke volume (measured by Fick or thermodilution) divided by end-diastolic volume (measured by contrast ventriculography) may be a useful index of LV function, since it represents LV emptying into the aorta. This index was examined in 54 patients with chronic MR who had normal EF (greater than or equal to 50%). There were significant correlations between the forward EF and the end-diastolic volume index (r = -0.69, p less than 0.001), end-systolic volume index (r = -0.64, p less than 0.001), cardiac index (r = 0.43, p less than 0.01), and the ratio of systolic pressure-to-end-systolic volume (r = 0.65, p less than 0.001). Patients were divided into two groups according to the forward EF: group I (n = 34) had forward EF less than or equal to 35%; and group II (n = 20) had forward EF greater than 35%. Of the 32 patients who subsequently underwent mitral valve replacement, 24 patients were in group I and eight patients were in group II. At a mean follow-up of 35 months, four patients died; all of them were in group I. Improvement in functional class occurred in 75% of surgical survivors (80% in group I and 63% in group II, p = NS). These preliminary data suggest that forward EF may be a useful index of LV performance in patients with MR who have normal EF.