To assess the predictive value of right ventricular systolic function in patients with active myocarditis, the echocardiograms of 23 patients with biopsy-confirmed myocarditis were reviewed. Right ventricular systolic function was evaluated qualitatively and quantitatively by descent of the right ventricular base. Patients were divided into those with normal right ventricular function, in whom right ventricular descent was 1.9 +/- 0.1 cm, and those with abnormal right ventricular function, in whom right ventricular descent was 0.8 +/- 0.1 cm (p < 0.001). There were no differences between the two groups in age, duration of symptoms, baseline hemodynamics, or histologic assessment. Initial left ventricular ejection fraction was significantly lower in patients with depressed right ventricular function (27.5 +/- 4.9%) compared with that in patients with normal right ventricular function (47.5 +/- 6.3%) (p = 0.01). The likelihood of an adverse outcome, defined as death or need for cardiac transplantation, was greater in patients with abnormal right ventricular function (right ventricular descent < or = 1.7 cm) than in patients with normal right ventricular function (right ventricular descent > 1.7 cm) (p < 0.03). Multivariate analysis revealed that right ventricular dysfunction as quantified by right ventricular descent was the most powerful predictor of adverse outcome.