BACKGROUND:Although digital and videotaped images are known to be comparable for the evaluation of left ventricular function, their relative accuracy for assessment of more complex anatomy is unclear. We sought to compare reading time, storage costs, and concordance of video and digital interpretations across multiple observers and sites. METHODS:One hundred one patients with valvular (90 mitral, 48 aortic, 80 tricuspid) disease were selected prospectively, and studies were stored according to video and standardized digital protocols. The same reviewer interpreted video and digital images independently and at different times with the use of a standard report form to evaluate 40 items (e.g., severity of stenosis or regurgitation, leaflet thickening, and calcification) as normal or mildly, moderately, or severely abnormal. Concordance between modalities was expressed at kappa. Major discordance (difference of >1 level of severity) was ascribed to the modality that gave the lesser severity. CD-ROM was used to store digital data (20:1 lossy compression), and super-VHS videotape was used to store video data. The reading time and storage costs for each modality were compared. RESULTS:Measured parameters were highly concordant (ejection fraction was 52% +/- 13% by both). Major discordance was rare, and lesser values were reported with digital rather than video interpretation in the categories of aortic and mitral valve thickening (1% to 2%) and severity of mitral regurgitation (2%). Digital reading time was 6.8 +/- 2.4 minutes, 38% shorter than with video (11.0 +/- 3.0, range 8 to 22 minutes, P <.001). Compressed digital studies had an average size of 60 +/- 14 megabytes (range 26 to 96 megabytes). Storage cost for video was A$0.62 per patient (18 studies per tape, total cost A$11.20), compared with A$0.31 per patient for digital storage (8 studies per CD-ROM, total cost A$2.50). CONCLUSION:Digital and video interpretation were highly concordant; in the few cases of major discordance, the digital scores were lower, perhaps reflecting undersampling. Use of additional views and longer clips may be indicated to minimize discordance with video in patients with complex problems. Digital interpretation offers a significant reduction in reading times and the cost of archiving.