In cardiogenic shock complicating acute myocardial infarction, percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty has been reported to significantly improve the modest survival benefits afforded by emergency surgical revascularization and thrombolytic therapy. The records of all patients who underwent angioplasty for acute myocardial infarction complicated by cardiogenic shock were retrospectively reviewed to determine whether coronary angioplasty improves survival. Of the 45 patients, 28 (group 1, 62%) had successful dilation of the infarct-related artery and 17 (group 2, 38%) had unsuccessful angioplasty. The groups were similar in extent of coronary artery disease, infarct location, incidence of multivessel disease and hemodynamic variables. The overall hospital survival rate was 56% (71% in group 1 and 29% in group 2). Group 1 patients had more left main coronary artery disease, and group 2 patients were older and had a higher incidence of prior myocardial infarction. Multivariate analysis showed that the survival advantage in patients with successful angioplasty was statistically significant (p = 0.014) when these factors were taken into account. At a mean follow-up interval of 2.3 years (range 1 month to 5.6 years), there were five deaths (four cardiac and one noncardiac), for a 2.3-year survival rate of 80% in patients surviving to hospital discharge. During the follow-up period, 36% of hospital survivors had repeat hospitalization for cardiac evaluation, 8% had myocardial infarction, 8% had coronary artery bypass surgery and 24% had angina.