This study comprised a registry and an emergency department treatment trial using recombinant tissue plasminogen activator. During 1 year, 1,028 patients with documented acute myocardial infarction (AMI) were evaluated for eligibility for thrombolytic therapy. Of these, 221 patients (22%) were eligible for thrombolytic therapy under currently accepted criteria, 175 (79%) of them were correctly identified by emergency department physicians for thrombolytic therapy, and 160 were enrolled in the trial. Only 3 patients (2%) enrolled by emergency department physicians did not subsequently evolve documented AMI. In all, 807 patients (78%) were ineligible for thrombolytic therapy: 335 (33%) because of greater than or equal to 1 contraindications, 364 (36%) because of nondiagnostic electrocardiograms on presentation, and 105 (10%) because of age greater than 75 years, or greater than 6 hours of chest pain at presentation, or both. Mortality in treated patients at 14 days was 5.6%, and survival at 1 year was 92%. The mean time from hospital arrival to thrombolytic treatment was 55 +/- 27 minutes. Initial management of AMI with recombinant tissue plasminogen activator in the emergency department provided rapid and safe treatment comparable to that reported in trials that started treatment in the coronary care unit. The proportions of eligible patients could be increased from 1 in 5 to 1 in 3, if patients currently excluded only because of age greater than 75 years or because of greater than 6 hours of chest pain were offered treatment.