Cardiomyopathy in alcoholics is considered to be associated with a low incidence of hepatic cirrhosis. To evaluate cardiac hemodynamics in alcoholic liver disease, left ventricular function in 37 patients with hepatic cirrhosis (group II) was compared with that in 13 normal subjects (group I) matched for age, sex and cardiac size. These groups were contrasted with group III, comprising 32 alcoholics without cirrhosis who had cardiac symptoms but no cardiomegaly or heart failure. Patients with cirrhosis as a group did not differ from normal subjects (group I) in terms of left ventricular filling pressure and cardiac muscle and pump function (cardiac index). However, subgroup IIA (n = 21) had a stroke index significantly less than normal, while subgroup IIB had a significantly increased stroke index and myocardial cardial contractility with a diminished systemic arterial resistance. Similar hepatic abnormalities were present in both subgroups. In group III, left ventricular end-diastolic and aortic mean pressures were significantly elevated compared with values in normal subjects, while cardiac index and indexes of ventricular contraction and relaxation were abnormal. Further examination of patients with cirrhosis indicated that the responses to volume or pressure increments in terms of the level of stroke work for a given filling pressure were most abnormal in group IIA, approximating those of group III. Thus, although overt cardiomyopathy is infrequent in patients with cirrhosis, asymptomatic myocardial disease may assume clinical importance during volume or pressure overload.