We present our experience in the treatment of life-threatening ventricular tachycardia using electrophysiologically guided surgery (97 patients), automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator (AICD) (42 patients), and orthotopic heart transplantation (15 patients). Eighty-three percent of these patients had ischemic and 17%, nonischemic heart disease. Our results of electrophysiologically directed surgery show an early mortality of 10% and a recurrence of 5% in the ischemic group. In the nonischemic group, the recurrence was 45%. The AICD was implanted in 31 patients with ischemic heart disease, in 5 with ventricular dysplasia, and in 6 with dilative cardiomyopathy, the ejection fractions ranging from 12% to 65%, with a mean of 30%. Early and late mortalities were 5% and 19%, respectively. The AICD was effective in all patients. Survival rate at 1 year was 83% +/- 6.4%. Thirteen of 15 patients have survived heart transplantation for 3-20 months (mean: 11 months). Ejection fractions prior to transplantation ranged from less than 10% to 34% (mean: 16%). We conclude that electrophysiologically guided surgery is highly effective in most cases of ischemia-related ventricular tachycardia. The AICD is considered a palliative alternative in patients with either poor ventricular function, no electrophysiological substrate, or multimorphological tachycardia. Heart transplantation has to be considered especially in young patients in whom progression of the underlying disease can be anticipated. Bridging by AICD is possible when transplantation is not immediately available or recommendable.