In order to assess the possible influence of differences in delivery mode on cardiovascular adaptation at birth, we measured left ventricular output and its regional distribution in the major organs sequentially using an echographic technique during the first 96 h of life. We studied 27 normal newborns, of whom 15 were delivered vaginally and 12 by cesarean section. We also measured umbilical arterial and venous catecholamine concentrations. The umbilical arterial epinephrine and norepinephrine concentrations in the infants delivered vaginally were significantly greater than those in the infants delivered by cesarean section (epinephrine 1,195 +/- 208 vs. 565 +/- 81 pg/ml, p < 0.05; norepinephrine 11,832 +/- 3,819 vs. 5,153 +/- 1,400 pg/ml, p < 0.05). The left ventricular output and its regional distribution showed a similar pattern in the two groups, and there were no significant differences between them. These results indicate that the capacity of infants delivered by cesarean section to tolerate cardiovascular changes during the early neonatal period is comparable to that in infants delivered vaginally, even though there are significant differences in the catecholamine surge between these groups.