To evaluate vulnerability to ventricular arrhythmia induction, programmed electrical stimulation was performed in the operating room in 17 consecutive patients undergoing myotomy-myectomy for obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HC). A control group of 5 patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting with normal left ventricular function and no previous myocardial infarction also was tested. Of the 17 patients with HC, 14 had inducible sustained ventricular tachycardia (VT) or ventricular fibrillation (VF), 1 had inducible unsustained VT and the remaining 2 had less than 6 ventricular beats. In contrast, none of the 5 control patients had an inducible sustained ventricular arrhythmia, 1 had inducible unsustained VT, and the remaining 4 had less than 3 ventricular beats. The difference between the 2 groups with respect to induction of a sustained ventricular arrhythmia, unsustained VT or less than 6 ventricular beats was significant (p less than 0.001). It is concluded that patients with severe obstructive HC are unusually vulnerable to ventricular arrhythmia induction. This suggests that spontaneous ventricular tachyarrhythmias may be an important cause of sudden death in patients with HC.