Following acute myocardial infarction, total CK and CK-MB levels begin to rise 5 to 6 hours after the onset of chest pain. The serial profile of the rise and fall of both activities is nearly always indicative of AMI. The recent increase in the use of thrombolytic agents in an attempt to attain reperfusion of occluded coronary arteries alters the enzyme profiles observed in blood after AMI. After successful reperfusion a washout phenomenon occurs in which early restoration of blood flow to damaged myocardium causes an early rise in total CK and MB levels above the normal range 2 to 4 hours after AMI, with earlier and higher peak enzyme values. Recently reports have appeared describing numerous serum and plasma CK-MM and CK-MB isoform patterns after AMI. Following release from injured myocardium CK-MM3 and CK-MB2 (designated the tissue isoforms) are converted in the circulation to post-translation products (MM2, MM1, MB1, respectively). Studies have now shown that CK-MM isoform patterns provide a unique means of assessing the time of onset of necrosis and a monitor of the duration of enzyme release from the site of injury. Following AMI, MM3, the MM3/MM1 ratio, or both rises and peaks earlier than either total CK or CK-MB levels. During successful reperfusion, the rate of rise of CK-MM3 is more rapid and the MM3/MM1 ratio peaks earlier than without reperfusion. However, any concomitant release of CK-MM3 from skeletal muscle would decrease the clinical utility of MM isoforms in detecting myocardial damage. Recent advances in technology have shown that CK-MB2 rise parallels the CK-MM increase and also rises earlier than total CK and total MB levels and provides increased specificity for the myocardium. The full potential of the diagnostic utility of MM and MB isoforms will not be realized until a reliable, sensitive, simple, and rapid quantitative assay becomes available.