The velocity and acceleration of aortic blood flow were measured by means of a catheter velocity probe in 40 patients during routine diagnostic cardiac catheterization. Ten different variables were derived from the aortic velocity measurements, and their ability to discriminate between good and bad left ventricular (LV) function was tested. By means of eight conventional indices of LV function derived from pressure, mean flow, and quantitative cineangiography, the patients were divided into 3 groups: group 1, good LV function; group 2, moderate LV function; group 3, poor LV function. Aortic peak velocity and maximal acceleration correlated well with stroke volume and were thus indices of LV pump function. Aortic peak velocity also showed a significant correlation with LV stroke work. Both aortic peak velocity and maximal acceleration failed to discriminate between the three groups of patients, and correlated poorly with conventional indices of LV function. The mean values of stroke volume differed significantly between groups 1 and 2, and between groups 1 and 3, and also correlated better with the conventional functional indices. The best discrimination between normal and abnormal LV function was provided by dividing stroke volume by maximal acceleration, but stroke volume divided by peak velocity discriminated better than stroke volume alone. Stroke volume divided by maximal acceleration also gave more significant individual correlations with the conventional functional indices than did any other variable derived from aortic velocity.