As improvements in the prehospital care of traumatically injured patients have paralleled advancements in cardiovascular surgery, changing concepts in the management of the patient with blunt and penetrating injuries of the heart have occurred. More critically injured patients now arrive at a hospital facility still alive than in former years. Between 1951 and 1974, 350 patients with heart injuries were treated at Harris County Hospital District facilities. Gunshot wounds now predominate, compared with stab wounds in former years. Thirteen patients had rupture of the heart secondary to blunt trauma. Patients arriving with cardiac arrest and cerebral signs of preterminal activity had a 67% survival rate when cardiorraphy was performed in the Trauma Center. In the last four years, 50 patients without cardiac arrest, but frequently with pericardiocentesis as a preoperative adjunct, had an 87% survival rate.