Most analyses of risk factors affecting survival after coronary artery bypass graft surgery have not differentiated among factors that influence early and late survival. For this reason, a multiphase model was applied to survival data from 2,967 patients undergoing a first coronary artery bypass graft at the Duke University Medical Center between 1969 and 1984. There were 709 deaths during follow-up to 19.6 years. The data were analyzed using a multivariable survival model that separates the underlying hazard function into as much as three different phases, each incorporating separate risk factors. Two distinct phases were detected. One phase dominated early survival (0-1 year), and the second phase dominated late survival (greater than 1 year). Surgery performed earlier in our experience was associated with elevated risk of dying in both phases but with different magnitudes, whereas lower ejection fraction, greater extent of coronary disease, older age, conduction abnormality, and history of hypertension were associated with elevated risk of dying similarly in both phases (p less than 0.05). Severity of angina symptoms and lower weight were associated with an elevated risk of dying only in the early phase (p less than 0.05; because few of the patients were obese, estimates of the relative risk of morbid obesity could not be estimated), whereas vascular disease, diabetes, and extent of myocardial damage were associated with an elevated risk of dying only in the late phase (p less than 0.05). These data illustrate both the differential influence of risk factors over time and the importance of multiphase models.