OBJECTIVE--To evaluate the short and long term results of coronary angioplasty in patients aged 70 years and older and identify the determinants of long-term survival. DESIGN--A retrospective analysis of clinical, angiographic, and procedure related variables on a consecutive series of patients. PATIENTS--163 patients aged 70 years and older (mean (range) age 73 (70-83) years; 63% men) who underwent a first coronary angioplasty procedure between 1981 and 1993. RESULTS--Procedural success was achieved in 82% of patients. Four patients (2%) died, three (2%) had a myocardial infarction, and five (3%) underwent emergency coronary artery bypass surgery. Complete follow up data were available for all patients (median (range) 35 (2-146) months). During the follow up period 16 patients (10%) died, two (1%) suffered non-fatal myocardial infarction, and 12 (7%) underwent elective coronary artery bypass surgery. A second angioplasty procedure was performed in 24 patients (15%). The cumulative probability of survival was 90.7% at 1 year and 83.4% at 5 years. Survival free from myocardial infarction, bypass surgery, and repeat angioplasty at 1 and 5 years was 68.2% and 56.0%, respectively. Proportional hazards regression analyses identified incomplete revascularisation as the only independent predictor of poorer overall survival (P = 0.04) and event free survival (P < 0.001). At census, of the 143 survivors, 75 (52%) were asymptomatic, 58 (41%) had mild angina, and only 10 (7%) complained of grade III or IV angina. Some 112 patients (78%) improved by at least two angina grades. CONCLUSION--Coronary angioplasty can be performed safely in the elderly and provides good symptomatic relief and favourable long-term outcome. Complete revascularisation may not be necessary if the primary goal is to achieve symptomatic relief, but incomplete revascularisation is associated with poorer long-term survival.