Recently, it was shown that aspirin given early in acute myocardial infarction (AMI) improves hospital survival, but the mechanisms involved are unclear. In a prospective, randomized placebo-controlled trial, the influence of early intervention with low-dose aspirin (100 mg/day) on infarct size and clinical outcome was studied in 100 consecutive patients with first anterior wall AMI. Infarct size was calculated by cumulative lactate dehydrogenase release in the first 72 hours after admission and was found to be (mean +/- standard deviation) 1,431 +/- 782 U/liter in the aspirin group (n = 50) and 1,592 +/- 1,082 U/liter in the placebo group (n = 50, p = 0.35). The study medication was given for 3 months, during which mortality was 10 (20%) in the aspirin patients and 12 (24%) in the placebo patients (p = 0.65). However, reinfarction occurred in 2 patients (4%) in the aspirin group and in 9 (18%) in the placebo group (p less than 0.03). Early intervention with low-dose aspirin showed, in comparison to placebo, a 10% decrease of infarct size, but this difference was not statistically significant. However, early low-dose aspirin effectively decreased the risk of reinfarction. Therefore, the favor able results of early aspirin on mortality in acute myocardial infarction are probably due more to prevention of reinfarction than to decrease of infarct size.