Histopathologic examination was performed in 20 patients undergoing antemortem coronary angioplasty. Thirty-four lesions were dilated and the interval between coronary angioplasty and death ranged from several hours to 4 years. Intimal proliferation of smooth muscle cells, as a major cause of restenosis, was observed in 83% to 100% of 28 lesions examined 11 days to 2 years after coronary angioplasty. In 20 lesions examined within 6 months, proliferating smooth muscle cells were predominantly of the synthetic type and there was abundant extracellular matrix substance chiefly composed of proteoglycans. In eight lesions examined between 6 months and 2 years, contractile type smooth muscle cells were dominant and extracellular matrix was composed chiefly of collagen. In three lesions examined after 2 years, evidence of antemortem coronary angioplasty was hardly identifiable and these lesions were almost indistinguishable from conventional atherosclerotic plaque. These temporal changes in histologic pattern provide a pathologic background for clinical reports that restenosis is predominantly found within 6 months after coronary angioplasty. Morphometric analysis revealed that the extent of intimal proliferation was significantly greater in lesions with evidence of medial or adventitial tears than in lesions with no or only intimal tears.