Gated radionuclide imaging with 99mTc-labeled red blood cells was employed to assess changes in right atrial (RA) volume in 17 subjects. Studies were repeated within two hours in five of 12 normal subjects and at two and ten days after infarction in five patients. Time-activity curves were generated for the RA and right ventricle (RV) from variable regions of interest defined by automatic edge detection. The RA time-activity curve exhibited four phases: filling, early emptying, equilibration, and late emptying. Repeated measurements of RA early emptying rates correlated closely in normals (r = 0.93). Early RA emptying and RV filling rates corresponded closely (r = 0.89). In four patients with infarction, the RA emptying rate was slowed on the first study but had normalized by 10 days. In a patient with inferior infarction and suspected RV infarction, the RA emptying rate was depressed and remained so for 10 days. Thus, relative changes in right atrial volume can be assessed reproducibly by a radionuclide technique, which is relatively independent of geometric assumptions. This technique offers great promise as a method to assess atrial function in health and disease.