Several studies in the prethrombolytic era on the treatment of acute myocardial infarction identified selected variables from the patient's history, physical examination, chest roentgenogram and electrocardiogram that could be used to estimate mortality in patients with evolving infarction. To extend such assessment to patients receiving thrombolytic therapy, this study evaluated the prognostic utility of several risk factors in the 3,339 patients (2,742 men, 597 women, aged 24 to 78 years) enrolled in Phase II of the Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) trial. Before intravenous tissue plasminogen activator was given, the presence of each of eight risk factors was noted: age greater than or equal to 70 years, female gender, a history of diabetes mellitus or previous myocardial infarction, electrocardiographic evidence of evolving anterior infarction or atrial fibrillation, evidence on physical examination of mild pulmonary congestion or hypotension (systolic pressure less than 100 mm Hg) and sinus tachycardia (heart rate greater than 100 beats/min). Of the 3,339 patients, the 78 with pulmonary edema or cardiogenic shock were excluded because their risk was known to be high. Of the remaining 3,261, 864 (26%) had no risk factor (low risk); their mortality rate at 6 weeks was only 1.5%. In contrast, 2,397 (74%) had one or more risk factors (not low risk); of these, 5.3% died in 6 weeks (p less than 0.001). Among those with one or more risk factors, mortality at 6 weeks was related to the number of risk factors on admission; those with four or more had a mortality rate at 6 weeks of 17.2%. Thus, these eight risk factors can be easily remembered and assessed in patients with myocardial infarction who are candidates for thrombolytic therapy and can be used to estimate short-term mortality.