In a single-blind randomised trial in patients with acute myocardial infarction of less than 6 h duration, the frequency of coronary patency was found to be higher after intravenous administration of recombinant human tissue-type plasminogen activator (rt-PA) than after intravenous streptokinase. 64 patients were allocated to 0.75 mg rt-PA/kg over 90 min, and the infarct-related coronary artery was patent in 70% of 61 assessable coronary angiograms taken 75-90 min after the start of infusion; 65 patients were allocated to 1 500 000 IU streptokinase over 60 min, and the infarct-related vessel was patent in 55% of 62 assessable angiograms. The 95% confidence interval of the differences ranges from +/- 30 to -2% (p = 0.054). Bleeding episodes and other complications were less common in the rt-PA patients than in the streptokinase group. Hospital mortality was identical in the 2 treatment groups. At the end of the rt-PA infusion the circulating fibrinogen level was 61 +/- 35% of the starting value, as measured by a coagulation-rate assay, and 69 +/- 25% as measured by sodium sulphite precipitation. After streptokinase infusion, corresponding fibrinogen levels were 12 +/- 18% and 20 +/- 11%. In the rt-PA group only 4.5% of the fibrinogen was measured as incoagulable fibrinogen degradation products, compared with 30% in the streptokinase group. Activation of the systemic fibrinolytic system was far less pronounced with rt-PA than with streptokinase.