Terminal QRS complex distortion on admission has an impact on a patient's prognosis after primary angioplasty for acute myocardial infarction (AMI). We evaluated the determinants and prognostic significance of terminal QRS complex distortion in 153 consecutive patients with AMI after primary angioplasty. The study population was divided into 2 groups according to the presence (group I, n = 41) or absence (group II, n = 112) of terminal QRS complex distortion. The primary end points were the occurrence, within 6 weeks after AMI, of death, nonfatal reinfarction, or congestive heart failure. Baseline characteristics were similar between the 2 groups. However, patients in group I had higher peak levels of serum creatine kinase than those in group II (5,100 +/- 3,100 vs 3,000 +/- 1,800 U/L, respectively, p <0.01). The rate of angiographic no-reflow (Thrombolysis In Myocardial Infarction flow grade < or =2) was 31.7% in group I and 10.7% in group II (p <0.01). The predischarge left ventricular ejection fraction was 45.0 +/- 12.0% in group I and 54.0 +/- 8.0% in group II (p <0.01). Multivariate analysis identified the pressure-derived fractional collateral flow index and the culprit lesion in the left anterior descending coronary artery as independent determinants of the terminal QRS complex distortion. No patients died during 6 weeks of follow-up. The 2 groups were similar for life-threatening arrhythmia or reinfarction. However, there were more patients in group I than in group II with congestive heart failure (26.8% vs 5.4%, respectively, p <0.01) or who reached the primary end points (29.3% vs 5.4%, respectively, p <0.01). In conclusion, terminal QRS complex distortion on admission is associated with poor clinical outcome after primary angioplasty for AMI, and collateral flow may have a major influence on terminal QRS complex distortion during AMI.