The idiopathic hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES) represents a heterogeneous group of disorders with the common features of prolonged eosinophilia of an undetectable cause and organ system dysfunction. Fifty patients with the idiopathic HES were studied over 11 years of the National Institutes of Health. Multiple organ systems were involved; bone marrow hypereosinophilia was common to all patients, but the most severe clinicopathologic involvement was of the heart and nervous system. Postmortem gross pathologic examination of the hearts of patients with idiopathic and nonidiopathic HES suggested that the common mechanism of cardiac disease is the eosinophilia. Endomyocardial biopsy findings showed that the endothelial cells in the endocardium and of the microvasculature were the primary targets of the tissue damage. This damage initiates thrombosis; endocardial fibrosis and restrictive endomyocardopathy may follow. In-vitro culture of circulating eosinophil colony-forming units showed some normal studies, some studies showing increased progenitor cells committed to eosinophil development, and others showing an excess production of eosinophil colony-stimulating factor. Chemotherapy to lower the eosinophil counts has resulted in marked improvement of HES prognosis, as have agressive medical and surgical approaches to cardiovascular complications.