Cardiac procedures are performed less frequently in Canada than in the United States (US), yet rates of cardiac death and myocardial infarction are similar. We therefore sought to compare long-term symptoms and quality of life in Canadian and American patients undergoing initial coronary revascularization. The 161 patients enrolled in the Bypass Angioplasty Revascularization Investigation at the Montreal Heart Institute were compared with 934 patients enrolled at 7 US sites. Patients' outcomes were documented for 5 years after random assignment to percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Functional status was assessed using the Duke Activity Status Index. Canadian patients were significantly younger and had more angina at study entry. Death and nonfatal myocardial infarction were not significantly different between Canadian and US patients after adjustment for baseline risk. Canadian patients had significantly greater improvements in functional status at 1-year follow-up (Duke Activity Status Index score + 13.5 vs. + 6.0, p = 0.002), but this difference progressively narrowed over 5 years. Angina was equally prevalent in Canadian and US patients at 1 year (16% vs. 19%), but significantly more prevalent in Canadian patients at 5 years (36% vs. 16%, p = 0.001). Repeat revascularization procedures were performed less often over 5 years among Canadian patients (26% vs. 34%, p = 0.08), especially coronary artery bypass graft surgery after initial percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (18% vs. 32%, p = 0.03). These results suggest more anginal symptoms are required in Canada before coronary revascularization, but as a result Canadians receive greater improvements in quality of life after the procedure.