Patients undergoing mitral valve surgery are at risk of left ventricular failure in the immediate post-operative period. In order to understand better the mechanisms of post-operative haemodynamic instability, we used transoesophageal echocardiography to assess the immediate response of the left ventricle to mitral valve replacement for mitral regurgitation or stenosis. A decrease in left ventricular preload, despite adequate filling pressures, was common to both groups and suggests the presence of diastolic dysfunction. A marked impairment in global systolic pump function was observed only in the regurgitation group and correlated with the left ventricular afterload. Transoesophageal echocardiography provides valuable information on the individual changes in left ventricular function and its determinants after mitral valve replacement that are not reflected by haemodynamic measurements.