The accuracy and reliability of measurement of coronary artery dimensions and detection of atherosclerotic lesions by high frequency epicardial echocardiography were compared with histopathological results. Ten pressure perfused human hearts were examined in vitro with a 10 MHz (Diasonics) transducer and a 7.5 MHz (Vingmed/Sonotron) transducer. There was close agreement between ultrasound and pathological measurements of coronary artery luminal diameter. Qualitative changes in wall structure such as diffuse wall thickening and calcification were readily identified; however, the resolution of the transducers was not high enough accurately to measure wall dimensions in normal coronary arteries. Coefficient of variation measurements for intra and inter observer variability (5.2% and 6.9% respectively) showed excellent reproducibility. The technique was accurate in identifying atherosclerotic lesions, imaging arteries distal to an occlusion, locating deeply sited arteries, and identifying complete obliteration of an artery. Intraoperative video playback and transducer miniaturisation may minimise problems caused by cardiac movement and restricted access. With these developments intraoperative assessment of coronary artery disease may become a real possibility.