The efficacy and safety of a 3 hr, 80 mg intravenous infusion of recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator (rt-PA) were investigated in 47 patients with acute myocardial infarction. Coronary angiography, performed before the administration of rt-PA and for 90 min thereafter, demonstrated that 37 patients had total coronary occlusion before therapy. After 90 min of rt-PA (50 mg), reperfusion of the infarct-related artery was observed in 25 patients (68%). Continuous infusions of heparin for anticoagulation were administered for 8 to 10 days. Of 36 patients who underwent follow-up coronary cineangiography, 21 had initially presented with total occlusion and had experienced reperfusion at 90 min. Sustained perfusion of the infarct-related artery was observed in 14 (67%) of these 21 initially reperfused patients. Late angiography was performed in nine patients who initially demonstrated subtotal occlusion of the infarct-related artery; sustained perfusion was observed in eight (89%). Significant bleeding was observed in 15 patients (32%). A hematoma at the site of the acute catheterization accounted for most instances of significant bleeding (11/15, 73%). Administration of rt-PA resulted in a significant decline in fibrinogen and plasminogen while amounts of fibrin(ogen) degradation products rose. In no patient, however, did fibrinogen levels decline to less than 140 mg/dl. Thus, rt-PA, administered as a brief 80 mg intravenous infusion, is capable of restoring blood flow in a high proportion of patients with acute myocardial infarction due to total coronary obstruction. Declines in plasma fibrinogen and plasminogen are observed. If combined with heparin anticoagulation and invasive vascular procedures, significant bleeding is a common complication. Despite anticoagulation with heparin after rt-PA, reocclusion of the reperfused infarct-related artery occurs in one-third of patients.