The reasons for the marked variability in expansion of myocardial infarcts are unknown. To examine this question, the hearts in 204 patients with a single myocardial infarct, autopsied at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and studied after coronary arteriography and fixation in distension, were reviewed. There were 58 (28%) hearts with marked infarct expansion, 34 (17%) with moderate expansion and 112 (55%) with no or minimal expansion. The degree of expansion was greater in larger, more transmural infarcts (p less than 0.001). Infarcts with greater expansion had significantly more endocardial thrombus (p less than 0.001) and endocardial fibroelastosis (p less than 0.01). Larger heart weight and degree of left ventricular hypertrophy had a significant negative correlation with infarct expansion (p less than 0.05). A markedly greater degree of expansion was noted in the 101 infarcts (50%) caused by lesions in the distribution of the left anterior descending coronary artery as compared with the 57 infarcts (28%) secondary to right coronary lesions and the 46 infarcts (23%) in the distribution of the left circumflex coronary artery (p less than 0.001). The results show that expansion is associated with large infarcts but is less marked in hearts with ventricular hypertrophy. Expansion occurs predominantly in infarcts in the left anterior descending coronary artery distribution, that is, regions of the left ventricular myocardium with the greatest curvature. These results suggest that the degree to which an infarct expands may be influenced by the preinfarction thickness of the ventricular wall.