Ten DDD paced patients, suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy in the NYHA functional classes III or IV were studied by means of Doppler echocardiography at different programmed values of atrioventricular (AV) delay (200, 150, 120, 100, and 80 msec). The following variables were evaluated: LV diameter, ejection fraction, mitral and aortic flow velocity integrals, and stroke volume. During VDD pacing, a resting AV delay associated with the best diastolic filling and systolic function was identified and programmed individually. Shortening of the AV delay to about 100 msec was associated with a gradual and progressive improvement. Further decrease caused an impairment of systolic function. The patients were clinically and hemodynamically reevaluated after 2 months of follow-up. A reduction of NYHA class and an improvement of LV function were consistently found. The reported data suggest that programming of an optimal AV delay may improve myocardial function in DDD paced patients with congestive heart failure. This result may be the consequence of an optimization of left ventricular filling and a better use of the Frank-Starling law.