This study examines the clinical and surgical outcome of a group of 55 patients (mean age 33 years) with secundum atrial septal defect who underwent surgical repair of this defect between 1981 and 1990. A group of 25 of these patients underwent late echocardiographic follow-up. Fifty-two patients underwent repair by direct suturing and three by patch closure. Surgical mortality was nil. There was one late death of a 58 year old who died from cardiac failure 4 years after surgery. Late postoperative morbidity consisted of two patients; one, age 63 at the time of surgery, required mitral and tricuspid valve replacement 6 years later and one, age 77 at surgery, developed cardiac failure 3 years later. Atrial fibrillation persisted in the six patients who had the rhythm before surgery and developed postoperatively in two patients aged 54 and 58. Two patients aged 49 and 57 developed immediate postoperative sinus node dysfunction requiring permanent pacing. The mean age at surgery of those six patients who suffered cardiac morbidity was 60 years. The patients with preoperative angiographic evidence of mitral valve prolapse were significantly older (P < 0.001) and had higher mean pulmonary artery pressures (P < 0.001) than patients with normal valves. There was no significant relationship between shunt size and mitral valve prolapse. Echocardiographic follow-up showed persistent mitral valve prolapse in all nine patients who developed the condition preoperatively. Five patients developed mitral valve prolapse with mitral regurgitation postoperatively, one of whom needed subsequent mitral and tricuspid valve replacement. These five patient were on average older (mean age 54) but the group was too small to prove significance. The follow-up data illustrate the current low mortality and morbidity associated with surgical closure of atrial septal defects. Late postoperative echocardiography had revealed not only that mitral valve prolapse persists in those patients who developed the condition pre-operatively but that new cases of mitral valve prolapse with mitral regurgitation can occur after atrial septal defect closure.