The aim of this study is to characterize and compare the left ventricular (LV) diastolic filling patterns in patients with paroxysmal (PAF) versus chronic atrial fibrillation (CAF) undergoing the maze procedure and to examine their relation with the hemodynamic status. Fifty patients with PAF and 22 with CAF were studied. Hemodynamic measurements and transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) were performed after the induction of anesthesia but before surgical incision, at stable conditions. Transmitral (TMF) and pulmonary venous flow (PVF) velocities were recorded with the pulsed Doppler method. Statistical analysis between the two groups (PAF and CAF) was performed using Student's t-test and chi-squared test, with P less than .05 statistically significant. Compared with patients in the PAF group, those in the CAF group had: (1) higher pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (14 +/- 5 v 12 +/- 4 mm Hg; P < .05), (2) lower left ventricular fraction of area change (43% +/- 6% v 52% +/- 9%; P < .01), (3) slower PVF systolic wave velocity (23 +/- 10 v 35 +/- 15 cm/s; P < .05), and (4) lower ratio of PVF systolic to diastolic wave velocity (0.75 +/- 0.3 v 1.2 +/- 0.4; P < .05). In the present study, LV filling patterns of abnormal relaxation were found in all our patients who underwent the maze procedure for CAF or PAF. Although the cause of LV filling abnormalities is not apparent, the data suggest LV diastolic dysfunction is prevalent in these patients.