OBJECTIVE--To determine the incidence of the various types of obstruction of the left ventricular outflow tract in patients born in the five health districts of Liverpool and to compare their prognosis into early adult life. DESIGN--Notes of all patients with obstruction of the left ventricular outflow tract born in the study area between 1960 and 1991 were reviewed. Patients with hypoplastic left ventricle, mitral valve atresia, and those with discordant atrioventricular or ventriculoarterial connections were excluded. Survivors were traced and assessed clinically; eight were lost to follow up. RESULTS--Obstruction of the left ventricular outflow tract occurred in 313 patients (67% male), giving an incidence of 6.1/10,000 live births. The median (range) age at presentation was 13.9 months (0-20 yr). Aortic valve stenosis occurred in 71.2%: subvalve in 13.7%, supravalve in 7.7%, and multilevel in 7.4%. The median (range) duration of follow up was 10.0 (1-29) yr. Aortic regurgitation at presentation occurred more often (p < 0.001) in patients with subvalve stenosis than in those with other types of obstruction, but there was an increased incidence (p < 0.001) at follow up in patients with valve stenosis. Ninety eight patients (31.3%) underwent operation. The reoperation rate was 27% for valve stenosis and 9% for subvalve obstruction. No patients with supravalve stenosis underwent reoperation. The median duration from first operation to aortic valve replacement (17 patients) was 12.3 years. Hazard analysis confirmed that the risk of death was higher in patients presenting at a younger age, with more severe stenosis, and those with subaortic, multilevel obstruction or a syndrome. Hazard analysis also showed that the risk of a clinical event (surgery, balloon dilatation, or endocarditis) was greater in patients who presented at a younger age, with more severe stenosis or aortic regurgitation, and in those with subvalve or multilevel obstruction. CONCLUSIONS--Aortic valve stenosis was the most common type of obstruction. Hazard analysis indicates that the age and severity of obstruction at presentation have a significant effect on survival and freedom from a clinical event. The risk of premature death in patients presenting with moderately severe valve stenosis is reasonably small, but increases considerably in those with subvalve, supravalve, and multilevel obstruction. Patients who present with mild valve stenosis have a good prognosis. The risk of sudden death is less than previous predictions. Patients with subvalve and multilevel obstruction, even when mild at presentation, are more likely to undergo intervention or develop endocarditis than those with valve or supravalve stenosis. Follow up into adult life is essential.