Left ventricular 'relative wall thickness', determined from the ratio between echocardiographic measurements of end-systolic wall thickness and cavity transverse dimension, was related to peak systolic intraventricular pressure in 15 normal subjects, in 15 patients with left ventricular volume or pressure overload without aortic stenosis, and in 23 patients with aortic stenosis. All these patients had a mean rate of circumferential fibre shortening greater than 1.0 circumference per second and were regarded as having good ventricular function. Relative wall thickness was found to be normal in cases of volume overload and to be increased in pressure overload, being proportional to the systolic intraventricular pressure. Values for the ratio of systolic intraventricular pressure to relative wall thickness in the normal subjects and patients without aortic stenosis were similar (mean 30 +/- 2.5). Based on this relation, estimates of peak systolic intraventricular pressure were made in the cases of aortic stenosis using the formula: systolic intraventricular pressure (kPa) equals 30 x wall thicknes divided by transverse dimension. Peak systolic aortic value gradients derived by subtracting brachial artery systolic pressure, measured by sphygmomanometer, from the echocardiographic estimates of intraventricular pressure compared favourably with the gradients measured at left heart catheterization (r equals 0.87, P less than 0.001). Aortic value orifice areas, derived from echocardiographic estimates of stroke volume, ejection time, and value gradient, ranged from 0.21 to 3.16 cm2 and appeared to correlate with the severity of aortic stenosis. All patients with aortic stenosis, with or without coexistent mild aortic regurgitation, who were recommended for aortic valve surgery, had estimated valve orifice areas of less than 0.8 cm2. A further 10 patients with pressure or volume overload had mean rates of circumferential fibre shortening of less than 1.0 circumference per second and were regarded as having poor ventricular function. In these cases values for relative wall thickness were lower than in those with good ventricular function and were not proportional to systolic intraventricular pressure. In patients with good left ventricular function systolic intraventricular pressure is proportional to, and can be estimated from, echocardiographic measurement of relative wall thickness.