Severe hypophosphatemia is associated in man with low intracellular stores of ATP and a set of specific cellular dysfunctions. To investigate whether hypophosphatemia affects myocardial performance, we measured cardiac output by thermodilution and calculated stroke work in seven patients with severe hypophosphatemia before, during and after repletion with an intravenous potassium phosphate solution. Mean left ventricular stroke work for these patients increased from 49.57 to 71.71 g-m per beat (P less than 0.01) at the same or higher afterload whereas pulmonary-artery wedge pressure fell from a mean value of 10.1 to 6.7 torr (P less than 0.02). Return of serum phosphate to normal, therefore, improved myocardial stroke work independently of the Starling effect. The mechanism of this improvement in contractile force is unknown but may be related to intracellular availability of ATP.