Abnormalities of right and left ventricular ejection fraction and segmental wall motion may be detected by radionuclide angiography (RNA) following blunt chest trauma. Of 111 patients with blunt chest trauma who were admitted to a large regional shock trauma center and underwent combined first-pass and equilibrium gated RNA, abnormalities were present in 40 (36%). These abnormalities were confined to the right ventricle in 33 patients. There was a positive association between RNA abnormalities and the presence of right bundle branch block (10 of 40, p less than 0.05) and a negative association between RNA abnormalities and the finding of rib fractures (6 of 40, p less than 0.05). The in-hospital death rate of these patients was low (3 of 40 patients with an abnormal RNA and 2 of 71 patients with a normal RNA). Follow-up RNA was performed at 10 +/- 4 days in 26 of the 40 patients with initially abnormal scans, and 22 (85%) of the 26 had reverted to normal. Thus although RNA abnormalities appear common following blunt chest trauma, among patients who survive for more than 24 hours and who undergo subsequent RNA, the complication rate is low despite an abnormal scan. We conclude that routine RNA adds little to clinical management following acute blunt chest trauma.