Left ventricular (LV) diastolic filling is abnormal at rest in many patients with coronary artery disease (CAD), even in the presence of normal resting LV systolic function. To determine the effects of improved myocardial perfusion on impaired. LV diastolic filling, we studied 25 patients with one-vessel CAD by high-temporal-resolution radionuclide angiography before and after percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA). No patient had ECG evidence of previous myocardial infarction. Despite normal regional and global LV systolic function at rest in all patents, LV diastolic filling was abnormal (peak LV filling rate [PFR] less than 2.5 end-diastolic volumes (EDV)/sec or time to PFR greater than 180 msec) in 17 of 25 patients. Twenty-three patients had abnormal LV systolic function during exercise. After successful PTCA, LV ejection fraction and heart rate at rest were unchanged, but LV ejection fraction during exercise increased, from 52 +/- 8% (+/- SD) to 63 +/- 5% (p less than 0.001). LV diastolic filling at rest improved: PFR increased from 2.3 +/- 0.6 to 2.8 +/- 0.5 EDV/sec (p less than 0.001) and time to PFR decreased from 181 +/- 22 to 160 +/- 18 msec (p less than 0.001). Thus, a reduction in exercise-induced LV systolic dysfunction after PTCA, reflecting a reduction in reversible ischemia, was associated with improved LV diastolic filling at rest. These data suggest that in many CAD patients with normal resting LV systolic function and without previous infarction, abnormalities of resting LV diastolic filling are not fixed, but appear to be reversible manifestations of impaired coronary flow.