OBJECTIVES: Left atrial (LA) volume (LAV) is a prognostically important biomarker for diastolic dysfunction, but its reproducibility on repeated testing is not well defined. LA assessment with 3-dimensional (3D) echocardiography (3DE) has been validated against magnetic resonance imaging, and we sought to assess whether this was superior to existing measurements for sequential echocardiographic follow-up. METHODS: Patients (n = 100; 81 men; age 56 +/- 14 years) presenting for LA evaluation were studied with M-mode (MM) echocardiography, 2-dimensional (2D) echocardiography, and 3DE. Test-retest variation was performed by a complete restudy by a separate sonographer within 1 hour without alteration of hemodynamics or therapy. In all, 20 patients were studied for interobserver and intraobserver variation. LAVs were calculated by using M-mode diameter and planimetered atrial area in the apical 4-chamber view to calculate an assumed sphere, as were prolate ellipsoid, Simpson's biplane, and biplane area-length methods. All were compared with 3DE. RESULTS: The average LAV was 72 +/- 27 mL by 3DE. There was significant underestimation of LAV by M-mode (35 +/- 20 mL, r = 0.66, P < .01). The 3DE and various 2D echocardiographic techniques were well correlated: LA planimetry (85 +/- 38 mL, r = 0.77, P < .01), prolate ellipsoid (73 +/- 36 mL, r = 0.73, P = .04), area-length (64 +/- 30 mL, r = 0.74, P < .01), and Simpson's biplane (69 +/- 31 mL, r = 0.78, P = .06). Test-retest variation for 3DE was most favorable (r = 0.98, P < .01), with the prolate ellipsoid method showing most variation. Interobserver agreement between measurements was best for 3DE (r = 0.99, P < .01), with M-mode the worst (r = 0.89, P < .01). Intraobserver results were similar to interobserver, the best correlation for 3DE (r = 0.99, P < .01), with LA planimetry the worst (r = 0.91, P < .01). CONCLUSIONS: The 2D measurements correlate closely with 3DE. Follow-up assessment in daily practice appears feasible and reliable with both 2D and 3D approaches.