Clinical, electrocardiographic, and scintigraphic data were reviewed from 32 patients (18 men and 14 women) who had syndrome X (chest pain, evidence of ischaemia, and normal coronary arteries without coronary vasospasm). The mean (SD) resting left ventricular ejection fraction, determined by first pass radionuclide angiography was 62.6 (9.2)% and was greater than 50% in all subjects. There was no significant difference between men and women. On exercise, left ventricular ejection fraction decreased significantly to 57.4 (13.0)%. In 17 of 32 subjects there was a fall in left ventricular ejection fraction of greater than 5%, and regional wall motion abnormalities developed in 12 subjects. The fall in left ventricular ejection fraction on exercise was significant in women (from 61.9 (8.5)% at rest to 54.0 (9.8)% on exercise) but not in men (from 63.2 (9.8)% at rest to 60.0 (14.8)% on exercise). Exercise left ventricular ejection fraction fell by greater than 5% in 10 (71%) of 14 women and in seven (39%) of 18 men. Dyskinetic segments developed in eight (57%) of 14 women and only four (22%) of men. Exercise duration in women was significantly shorter than in men (4.1 (1.5) vs 6.6 (2.1) minutes) and was the only one of several clinical and scintigraphic variables that correlated with the change in left ventricular ejection fraction on exercise. In this selected group of subjects with chest pain and angiographically normal coronary arteries, exercise induced left ventricular dysfunction, as shown by a fall in ejection fraction or the development of regional abnormalities, is a common finding. These are more likely to occur in women than men and are associated with a lower exercise capacity. The data suggest that the sex of the patient is important in the interpretation of the non-invasive evaluation of subjects suspected of having syndrome X.