A 15-month prospective study of 109 patients with the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or AIDS-related complex (ARC) was conducted. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis developed in 18 of these patients; they were treated with ganciclovir. Five other patients with CMV retinitis who were not part of the prospective study were also treated with ganciclovir. CMV retinitis frequently involved the peripheral retina. All 23 patients treated with ganciclovir showed clinical regression of retinitis, although breakthrough recurrence of CMV retinitis occurred in seven patients (30.4%) while on maintenance therapy with ganciclovir. During treatment, neutropenia (less than 1000 leukocytes/mm3) developed in three patients (13%). Ganciclovir is an effective means of therapy for CMV retinitis, but it must be given chronically to prevent reactivation. Breakthrough recurrences while on maintenance therapy are not uncommon, but can be successfully treated with more aggressive treatment with ganciclovir. In addition, the prognosis for survival of AIDS patients being treated with ganciclovir is improved when compared with that of untreated patients.