To assess the long-term effect of thrombolytic therapy on left ventricular (LV) systolic function, 222 patients with acute myocardial infarction treated with intravenous tissue plasminogen activator within 4 hours of symptom onset underwent assessment of LV ejection fraction (EF) by radionuclide equilibrium angiography at hospital discharge and 1 year later. Mean EF at hospital discharge (46 +/- 12) was similar to that at 1 year (45 +/- 13). Stepwise multivariate linear regression analysis identified EF at discharge and patency of the infarct-related artery before discharge as independent predictors of EF change at 1 year (p = 0.0002 and 0.003, respectively). Random assignments to invasive versus conservative treatment strategies or to early versus delayed beta-blocker therapy did not affect EF change during follow-up. No significant deterioration of EF was observed in patients with larger infarcts. However, EF decreased from 45 +/- 10 at hospital discharge to 39 +/- 12 (p = 0.005) at 1-year follow-up in a subgroup of patients with history of prior infarction. Thus, patients with acute myocardial infarction, treated with intravenous tissue plasminogen activator early after onset of symptoms, appear to have stable LV function between hospital discharge and 1 year follow-up. The change in EF between hospital discharge and 1 year can be predicted from the EF value at discharge, patency of the infarct-related artery before discharge and history of previous myocardial infarction.