Pulmonary hypertension (PHT) is an important complication of systemic sclerosis (SSc). Echocardiography can be used to detect PHT and, with Doppler echocardiography, the pulmonary arterial systolic pressure (PASP) can often be estimated. We have undertaken a study to compare echocardiographic assessment with right heart catheterization (RHC) in 33 SSc patients in whom clinical assessment [including ECG, chest X-ray, lung function tests and high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) had raised strong suspicion of PHT. The mean (S.D.) interval between echocardiography and RHC was 1.8 (2.3) months. Twenty-one patients (64%) had PHT (PASP > or = 30 mmHg) on RHC, and echocardiography correctly identified 19 of these (sensitivity 90%). Of the 12 patients without PHT on RHC, nine were correctly identified by echocardiography (specificity 75%). The five incorrectly classified patients all had PASP in the borderline normal/abnormal range. The presence of tricuspid regurgitation allowed Doppler measurement of PASP in 20 patients (61%) and this correlated significantly with RHC values (r = 0.83, P < 0.001). We conclude that echocardiography is a reliable method for detecting PHT and it may be particularly useful for the early detection and monitoring of this potentially fatal complication in SSc.