The role of intravenous magnesium therapy in patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) who received thrombolytic therapy is controversial. The results from previous clinical trials were not in consonance. We therefore conducted a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study in 350 patients with confirmed AMI during the period January 1994 to December 1996. The role of intravenous magnesium sulphate therapy (2 g over 5 min followed by 16 g over 24 h) was evaluated in patients with AMI who received thrombolytic therapy. Study group consisted of 169 patients who were administered magnesium sulphate. Control group comprised of 181 patients who were given isotonic saline. Among those in the magnesium group, 70% received magnesium within 6 h after the onset of symptoms. All patients received magnesium immediately after the completion of thrombolytic therapy. Patients were followed up for 30 days after AMI. The number of deaths in the study group was 6 (3.5%) compared with control arm in which 18 patients (9.9%) died (P value <0.01 95% Confidence intervals [CI] 1.2 to 11.6). Ventricular arrhythmias were also less in the magnesium arm; 27 patients (13%) compared with 83 patients (48.6%) in the control arm (P value 0.00001 95% Cl 26.7 to 44.5). In the magnesium group 15 patients (8.8%) had re-infarction compared with 23 patients (12.7%) in the placebo arm (P value not significant). Post myocardial infarction angina was observed in 47 patients (27.8%) in the magnesium arm compared with 60 patients (33.1%) in the placebo arm (P value not significant). The main side effect of intravenous magnesium was transient flushing observed in 152 (90%) patients. Intravenous magnesium sulphate in patients with AMI is a safe and useful adjunct to thrombolytic therapy in reducing the short-term mortality and ventricular arrhythmias after AMI.