Eighteen stenotic aortic valves (17 removed at operation) mounted in a pulsatile flow duplicator were dilated with a balloon catheter. Sequential measurements showed that the valve area initially increased from a mean (SD) of 0.52 (0.16) to 0.78 (0.17) cm2. It was 0.73 (0.16) cm2 five minutes after dilatation and this was little changed at four weeks (0.70 (0.15) cm2). Initially the mean transvalvar gradient fell significantly from 54 (27) to 32 (8) mm Hg but increased to 35 (10) mm Hg at five minutes and to 40 (11) mm Hg at four weeks. In six valves stretching of the orifice was the only mechanism responsible for the changes while in the remainder there was tearing through commissures with a greater initial increase in area (0.31 v 0.18 cm2) and a smaller decrease in area at five minutes (0.03 v 0.08 cm2). Fractures of calcific deposits in non-commissural positions were seen in one valve only. This laboratory study of isolated aortic valves showed a significant but small increase in valve area after balloon dilatation, which was greater when commissural tearing had occurred. Recoil of the stretched orifice was complete at five minutes and there was little further change over the next four weeks.