Abnormal left ventricular (LV) filling may occur with increasing age despite apparently normal LV size and function, and is usually attributed to LV hypertrophy and coronary artery disease. The purpose of this study was to determine whether myocardial abnormalities could be identified in 67 such patients (36 men, mean age 57 +/- 9 years) whose LV hypertrophy and coronary artery disease were excluded by dobutamine echocardiography. All patients underwent gray scale and color tissue Doppler imaging from 3 apical views, which were stored and analyzed off line. Disturbances in structure and function were assessed by averaging the cyclic variation of integrated backscatter, strain rate, and peak systolic strain from each myocardial segment. Calibrated integrated backscatter (corrected for pericardial backscatter intensity) was measured in the septum and posterior wall from the parasternal long-axis view. Abnormal LV filling was present in 36 subjects (54%). Subjects with and without abnormal LV filling had similar LV mass, but differed in age (p <0.01), cyclic variation (p = 0.001), strain rate (p <0.01), and peak systolic strain (p <0.001). Multivariate logistic regression analysis demonstrated that age (p = 0.016) and cyclic variation (p = 0.042) were the most important determinants of abnormal LV filling in these apparently normal subjects.