To avoid the haemorrhagic risk of unnecessary thrombolysis in acute myocardial infarction (MI), early and precise diagnosis of spontaneous recanalization (SR) of the infarct-related artery is required. To clarify the accuracy of technetium-99m tetrofosmin myocardial single-photon emission tomography (SPET) in the detection of SR in patients with acute anterior MI, electrocardiography (ECG), echocardiography and 99mTc-tetrofosmin SPET imaging were performed in 49 patients with acute anterior MI before emergency coronary angiography. Defect score was calculated as the sum of the perfusion defects of each segment: from 3 (complete defect) to 0 (normal perfusion). Echocardiographic asynergic score (the sum of asynergic grades) and the greatest ST elevation of the 12-lead ECG on admission were also measured. SR was defined as Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) grade 3 flow on emergency coronary angiography. Defect score in 11 patients with SR (9.2 +/- 3.7) was significantly lower than that in 38 patients without SR (18.5 +/- 5.0) (P < 0.001), whereas there were no significant differences in asynergic score and ST elevation between the two groups. From the receiver operating characteristic curves, the optimal cut-off points of defect score, asynergic score and ST elevation for the detection of SR were calculated to be 12, 13 and 3.5, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of the scintigraphic defect score (91% and 89%) were significantly higher than those of the asynergic score (64% and 68%) and ST elevation (73% and 71%). Thus, 99mTc-tetrofosmin SPET imaging on admission is a very accurate method for the detection of SR in patients with acute anterior MI.