The usefulness of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) levels to assess ventricular dysfunction in children and the congenital heart disease population remains largely unknown. We retrospectively analyzed 62 patients with or without known heart disease who had plasma BNP measured for the investigation of new or severity grading of known ventricular dysfunction. BNP levels were significantly higher in patients with ventricular dysfunction (mean 623 +/- 146 pg/ml, range 5 to 5,000) than in patients without ventricular dysfunction (mean 22 +/- 5 pg/ml, range 5 to 63; p <0.01). Using a cutoff of 40 pg/ml, BNP levels detected heart disease associated with ventricular dysfunction at a sensitivity of 85%, specificity of 81%, positive predictive value of 92%, and negative predictive value of 68%. The degree of BNP elevation was also associated with the severity of heart failure and high ventricular filling pressures. Plasma BNP elevation can be a reliable test in children and young adults with various kinds of congenital heart disease resulting in ventricular dysfunction.