Activated neutrophils releasing proteolytic enzymes and oxygen free radicals have been implicated in extending myocardial injury after myocardial infarction. Neutrophil elastase was used as a marker of neutrophil activation and the non-peroxide diene conjugate of linoleic acid was used as an indicator of free radical activity in 32 patients after acute myocardial infarction; 17 were treated by intravenous thrombolysis. Patients with acute myocardial infarction had higher plasma concentrations of neutrophil elastase and the non-peroxide diene conjugated isomer of linoleic acid than normal volunteers or patients with stable ischaemic heart disease. Patients treated by thrombolysis had an early peak of neutrophil elastase at eight hours while those who had not been treated by thrombolysis showed a later peak 40 hours after infarction. The plasma concentration of non-peroxide conjugated diene of linoleic acid was highest 16 hours after the infarction irrespective of treatment by thrombolysis. Quantitative imaging with single photon emission tomography showed decreased uptake of indium-111 labelled neutrophils in the infarcted myocardium (as judged from technetium-99m pyrophosphate) in those who had received thrombolysis, suggesting a decreased inflammatory response. The results indicate increased neutrophil activation and free radical production after myocardial infarction; they also suggest that thrombolysis does not amplify the inflammatory response and may indeed suppress it.