The diagnostic value of gadolinium-DTPA (diethylenetriamine penta-acetic acid) enhanced magnetic resonance imaging in patients treated by thrombolysis for acute myocardial infarction was assessed in 27 consecutive patients who had a first acute myocardial infarction (14 anterior, 13 inferior) and who underwent thrombolytic treatment and coronary arteriography within 4 hours of the onset of symptoms. Magnetic resonance imaging was performed 93 hours (range 15-241) after the onset of symptoms. A Philips Gyroscan (0.5 T) was used, and spin echo measurements (echo time 30 ms) were made before and 20 minutes after intravenous injection of 0.1 mmol/kg gadolinium-DTPA. In all patients contrast enhancement of the infarcted areas was seen after Gd-DTPA. The signal intensities of the infarcted and normal values were used to calculate the intensity ratios. Mean (SD) intensity ratios after Gd-DTPA were significantly increased (1.15 (0.17) v 1.52 (0.29). Intensity ratios were higher in the 17 patients who underwent magnetic resonance imaging more than 72 hours after the onset of symptoms than in the 10 who underwent magnetic resonance imaging earlier, the difference being significantly greater after administration of Gd-DTPA (1.38 (0.12) v 1.61 (0.34). When patients were classified according to the site and size of the infarcted areas, or to reperfusion (n = 19) versus non-reperfusion (n = 8), the intensity ratios both before and after Gd-DTPA did not show significant differences. Magnetic resonance imaging with Gd-DTPA improved the identification of acutely infarcted areas, but with current techniques did not identify patients in whom thrombolytic treatment was successful.