Twenty nine patients (aged from three months to 37 years) with confirmed or suspected ventricular septal defects were studied separately by three examiners who used colour flow mapping and imaging, or continuous wave Doppler and imaging, or a combined reference examination. Colour flow mapping identified 19 of the 25 patients with a ventricular septal defect, continuous wave Doppler echocardiography identified 18, and the combined reference examination identified 24. Two of four patients without ventricular septal defect had a false positive result with colour flow mapping and none had a false positive result with continuous wave Doppler examination. During the reference examination continuous wave Doppler identified 24 patients with ventricular septal defects and colour flow mapping identified 23. In two patients a second ventricular septal defect was found by colour flow mapping, and confirmed by continuous wave Doppler. There was no significant difference in time to diagnosis between the two techniques. Colour flow mapping aids identification of multiple ventricular septal defects but is not faster and has lower specificity than continuous wave Doppler. A combination of the two techniques gave the highest sensitivity and specificity.