BACKGROUND: The availability of automated online software may increase the feasibility of real-time 3-dimensional (3D) echocardiography (3DE) for left ventricular (LV) volume calculation in clinical practice. We sought to compare offline and online approaches with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). METHODS: Patients who presented to the clinical laboratory for evaluation of LV parameters (n = 110, 94 men, age 63 +/- 10 years) were studied with 2-dimensional echocardiography, online and offline 3DE, and MRI. The 3DE measurements were obtained by a semiautomated LV border detection based on tracing (online) and edge detection (offline). MRI images were obtained using true free induction steady-state precession during breath hold, with measurement of 3D volumes and ejection fraction (EF). RESULTS: All echocardiographic techniques underestimated LV volumes, but EF estimations were similar. The best correlation was between MRI versus offline 3DE. The correlation of online 3DE with MRI was significantly better than 2-dimensional echocardiography (end-diastolic volume (EDV) z = 4.2, end-systolic volume (ESV) z = 4.44, EF z = 4.32; all P < .01). However, correlation of offline 3DE with MRI was significantly better than online 3DE (EDV z = 2.57, P < .05; ESV z = 2.42, P < .05; EF z = 3.82, P < .01). Images were considered to be good quality (endocardium visualized in all walls) in 49 patients; discrepancies between online and offline 3DE and MRI were similar in good- and poor-quality images. Wall-motion abnormalities were present in 98 patients; discrepancies with MRI were similar in patients with and without abnormal wall motion. CONCLUSIONS: Online measurement of LV volumes is feasible and more accurate than with 2-dimensional echocardiography. Although the offline approach is more accurate, it is also more time-consuming.