OBJECTIVE: To establish the incidence of hibernating myocardium after myocardial infarction treated with thrombolysis and to observe differences in the clinical outcome between patients with and without hibernating tissue. METHODS: 41 patients underwent gated positron emission tomography with 18-fluorodeoxyglucose and 13N-ammonia at a median of eight days after first myocardial infarction. RESULTS: All 41 subjects had a matched perfusion-metabolism deficit in the region of myocardium indicated as the site of infarction by an electrocardiograph; 32 patients (78%) had scans which also showed at least one area of reduced blood flow and contraction with a concomitant increase in glucose uptake, representing hibernating myocardium. Patients were followed up at a median of six months: all 41 were alive and none had sustained a further infarct or cardiac arrhythmia; 17 subjects with hibernating tissue (53.1%) and two without (25%) reported chest pain after myocardial infarction. CONCLUSIONS: Hibernating myocardium is relatively common shortly after myocardial infarction treated with thrombolysis. It does not influence mortality or the incidence of postinfarction chest pain.