Twenty patients who had had a myocardial infarction and who had a resting left ventricular ejection fraction of 25% or less participated in an 8-week outpatient supervised exercise and education program. No morbidity or mortality occurred during the program, and most patients achieved a substantial improvement in exercise capacity. During a follow-up interval of a mean of 29.7 +/- 13.0 months, four patients died, an annualized mortality of 8 +/- 4%. The outcome of cardiac rehabilitation was assessed 19.1 +/- 4.4 months after completion of the supervised program. Of the 16 survivors, all of whom had been fully employed before their most recent myocardial infarction, 9 (56%) had returned to full-time work, 6 (38%) were medically disabled, and 1 was retired (age 73 years) but fully active. Of the 16 survivors, 13 (81%) completed a questionnaire about their perceptions of their current quality of life. Of the 13 patients, 12 (92%) had continued to exercise regularly. Four patients (31%) reported the ability to perform all desired activities without symptoms, whereas nine patients (69%) noted some impairment in their functional capacity. Thus, in this group of patients with profound left ventricular dysfunction, the rehabilitation potential, as evidenced by return to productive employment and the ability to perform desired activities-including exercise training-was generally favorable.