To determine if pulmonary perfusion was improved in acute pulmonary embolism after therapy with recombinant human tissue-type plasminogen activator (rt-PA), lung scans were obtained before and a mean of 22 hours after therapy in 19 patients. The posttherapy lung scans were compared with baseline, pretherapy scans with use of two semiquantitative methods - an anteroposterior view method, similar to that used in the Urokinase Pulmonary Embolism Trial, and a segmental method that emphasized pulmonary anatomy. There was an improvement in the defect score from 0.35 to 0.14 (P < .01) when the anteroposterior view method was used and from 0.37 to 0.16 (P < .01) when the segmental method was used. These encouraging results in the early posttherapy period suggest that rt-PA is especially effective in improving regional perfusion after pulmonary embolism and that a larger controlled trial of therapy with rt-PA for acute pulmonary embolism should be performed. Scoring lung scans with a segmental method is feasible and appropriate for present-day lung scan technique and should be considered in future studies.