We reviewed our experience over a 10-year period to determine whether children with Down's syndrome and complete atrioventricular canal develop pulmonary vascular obstructive disease earlier than children with normal chromosomes and this defect. Comparisons were made between Down's syndrome and normal chromosome children regarding (1) pulmonary blood flow and pulmonary vascular resistance at initial catheterization, (2) operability as related to elevation in pulmonary vascular resistance, and (3) age at diagnosis of fixed pulmonary vascular obstructive disease. The 45 patients with Down's syndrome catheterized under 1 year of age had a lower mean pulmonary blood flow (3.2 versus 5.7; p = 0.0001) and higher mean pulmonary vascular resistance (8.3 versus 4.6 Wood units · m2; p = 0.0003) than their 34 normal chromosome counterparts. When all ages were included, 38 of 81 (47%) of the children with Down's syndrome and 32 of 40 (80%) of the normal children were considered operable. Non-Down's syndrome patients who had operations had a higher pulmonary blood flow (5.8 versus 3.3; p = 0.004) and lower pulmonary vascular resistance (3.6 versus 6.0 Wood units · m2; p = 0.005) than Down's syndrome patients. Of the 34 patients who did not have operations because of pulmonary vascular obstructive disease, 31 had Down's syndrome. In 10 of 81 children with Down's syndrome, fixed pulmonary vascular obstructive disease was diagnosed before the age of 1 year, while this was found in none of 40 normal children. Our data demonstrate that Down's syndrome patients with complete atrioventricular canal have a greater degree of elevation of pulmonary vascular resistance in the first year of life and more rapid progression to fixed pulmonary vascular obstructive disease than children with normal chromosomes.