The value of pulmonary artery catheterization is a matter for discussion. Previous studies suggest that direct measurements of intravascular volume distribution and cardiac volume indices may be of greater relevance than central venous and pulmonary capillary wedge pressure. We therefore used a thermo-dye dilution technique for the quantification of central blood volume, right ventricular end-diastolic volume and left heart volume in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery. Measurements were performed after the induction of anaesthesia as well as 1, 6 and 24 h after surgery. Central venous pressure was significantly increased at 1 and 6 h, whereas right ventricular end-diastolic volume was increased only at 6 h post-operatively. Pulmonary capillary wedge pressure showed a tendency to increase whereas left heart and central blood volume decreased significantly after surgery. The results of the present study suggest that changes in cardiac filling pressure do not indicate changes in indices of cardiac volume in patients after coronary bypass surgery.