In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the development of pulmonary hypertension is common. This study was performed to assess the signs of right ventricular (RV) pressure overload and RV failure in COPD. In 8 COPD patients without primary cardiac disease, RV wall thickness, mass, and end-diastolic volume were measured by cardiac-triggered cine MRI. MR phase-contrast velocity quantification was used to measure stroke volume and the patterns of flow into and out of the RV. Data of patients were tested versus those of a control group matched for age (n = 8). Results showed that the RV wall thickness was increased (.6 +/- 0.1 vs 0.4 +/- 0.1 cm, P < .001). RV mass was increased (67 +/- 11 vs 57 +/- 5 g, P < .005). RV stroke volume was decreased (57 +/- 13 vs 71 +/- 13 ml, P < .01), but RV ejection fraction was not different. In the main pulmonary artery flow, the quotient of acceleration time divided by ejection time was decreased (33 +/- 5% vs 38 +/- 4%, P < .05), which is indicative of pulmonary hypertension. In conclusion, this MRI protocol provides a tool to assess the effects of RV pressure overload in COPD before heart failure has become manifest.