Recent information has suggested that early diastolic filling may be influenced by the left ventricular filling pressure, especially in the failing left ventricle. Acute severe left ventricular dysfunction was induced in 14 dogs by severe left ventricular global ischemia produced by left main coronary artery microsphere embolization until the left ventricular end-diastolic pressure was >_20 mm Hg. To assess the importance of left ventricular filling pressure on left ventricular diastolic filling, nitroglycerin was infused and titrated to reduce left ventricular end-diastolic pressure to < 15 mm Hg in seven dogs, whereas the remaining seven dogs were observed for 1 h after acute severe left ventricular dysfunction. In both groups of dogs, severe left ventricular dysfunction resulted in left ventricular dilation and elevation of end-diastolic pressure, reduction in area ejection fraction (echocardiographically determined) and an early redistribution of diastolic filling (increased filling fractions at one-third and one-half diastole) despite prolongation of the time constant of left ventricular pressure decline. Pressure-area plots shifted upward and rightward with severe left ventricular dysfunction and were unchanged at 1 h as were all other variables. Nitroglycerin infusion reduced left ventricular size and filling pressure, redistributed diastolic filling to later in diastole as characterized by reduced filling fraction at one-third diastole (left ventricular dysfunction 48.8 ±9.7%, nitroglycerin 17.9 ± 7.9%, p < 0.001) and shifted downward left ventricular pressure-area plots. Nitroglycerin also improved the time constant of relaxation (left ventricular dysfunction 83 ± 15 ms, nitroglycerin 52 ± 15 ms, p < 0.001) and lengthened the diastolic filling period. Alterations of left ventricular filling pressure in the failing left ventricle result in profound alterations in the pattern of left ventricular diastolic filling.