Recent animal studies have suggested that there exists an activated subpopulation of circulating granulocytes which plays an important part in microvascular sequestration and tissue injury during shock and ischemia. In this respect, spontaneous granulocyte activation in form of pseudopod formation, a manifestation of actin polymerization, is a high risk for microvascular entrapment. The present investigation was carried out to determine if there is a significant difference in pseudopod formation in vitro between granulocytes obtained from healthy volunteers without symptoms and patients with acute cardiovascular illnesses. Blood samples from 25 healthy volunteers, 12 patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and 12 patients with acute cerebral infarction (ACI) to determine spontaneous pseudopod formation in granulocytes with a high resolution light microscope over a period of several hours. The results revealed that the mean percentage of cells with pseudopod formation in the control group was below 10% in the first 3 hours, and increased to about 50% at 12 hours. In AMI patients, the level of activation within the first hour was not significantly different from the controls, but it rose rapidly to 90% in 4 to 5 hours. Patients with cerebral infarction, however, showed no significant difference from the control group. When the granulocytes of healthy subjects were incubated in plasma of AMI, the cells were activated similar to AMI granulocytes in their own plasma. When AMI plasma was serially diluted with Ringer's solution, the activation curve fell successively. These results indicate that AMI patients' blood contains plasma factor(s) which can activate granulocytes at a more rapid rate than controls.