A method is described for measuring relative left atrial volume changes with gated radionuclide angiography, using an approximate computer-generated functional image to locate the atrial region of interest. M mode echocardiographic measurements of left atrial and left ventricular distances from the chest wall allowed calculation of a correction factor for the differential attenuation of atrial and ventricular photons. Background-corrected left atrial time-activity curves obtained from normal subjects exhibited excellent temporal resolution and were used to identify and quantitate the reservoir and contractile phases of left atrial volume change. In 20 normal subjects, the mean (+/- standard deviation) value for left atrial fractional emptying was 0.39 +/- 0.07. Expressed as fractions of the left ventricular stroke volume, mean values of the specific phases of atrial volume change were (1) reservoir volume 0.25 +/- 0.09, (2) contractile volume 0.29 +/- 0.10, and (3) conduit volume 0.46 +/- 0.12.