Baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) is an important parameter in the classification of patients with reduced left ventricular function. This study aimed at investigating BRS in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and in healthy subjects (controls), as well as comparing the values of BRS parameters with parameters of heart rate variability (HRV) and blood pressure variability (BPV). ECG, continuous blood pressure and respiration curves were recorded for 30 min in 27 DCM patients and 27 control subjects. The Dual Sequence Method (DSM) includes the analysis of spontaneous fluctuations in systolic blood pressure and the corresponding beat-to-beat intervals of heart rate to estimate bradycardic, opposite tachycardic and delayed baroreflex fluctuations. The number of systolic blood pressure/beat-to-beat interval fluctuations in DCM patients was reduced in comparison with controls (DCM patients: male, 154.4+/-93.9 ms/mmHg; female, 93.7+/-40.5 ms/mmHg; controls: male, 245.5+/-112.9 ms/mmHg; female, 150.6+/-55.8 ms/mmHg, P<0.05). The average slope in DCM patients was lower than in controls (DCM, 5.3+/-1.9 ms/mmHg; controls, 8.0+/-5.4 ms/mmHg; P<0.05). Discriminant function analysis showed that, in the synchronous range of the standard sequence method, the DCM and control groups could be discriminated to only 76% accuracy, whereas the DSM gave an improved accuracy of 84%. The combination of six parameters of HRV, BPV and DSM gives an accuracy of classification of 96%, whereas six parameters of HRV and BPV could separate the two groups to only 88% accuracy. Thus the DSM leads to an improved characterization of autonomous regulation in order to differentiate between DCM patients and healthy subjects. BRS in DCM patients is significantly reduced and apparently less effective.