It has been shown that the measured reduction in the cross-sectional area of the left ventricle (LV), as viewed in the short axis, closely approximates its ejection fraction (EF). We assessed the reliability of using two-dimensional echocardiography (2DE) to visually estimate the EF during real-time viewing, without the need of digitizers, planimetry, or calculations. Twenty-five adult hospitalized patients with either suspected or known cardiac disease were evaluated prospectively. Each patient also had gated nuclear angiography during the same admission, and 14 had cardiac catheterization with left ventriculography. The EF was determined by 2DE using a visual estimate of the percent area reduction of the LV cavity in the short-axis view at the level of the papillary muscles. All 2 DE studies were read by two or more blinded reviewers, with a value for the EF to the nearest 2.5% determined by consensus. These values correlated closely to the values determined in all 25 patients with gated nuclear angiography (r = 0.927) and the 14 patients who had left ventriculography (r = 0.935). We believe that this method of visually estimating the LVEF will enable echocardiographers to easily use 2 DE for a reliable and instantaneous assessment of ventricular function, without the need of sophisticated analytical equipment.