We evaluated the effectiveness of early intravenous administration of 750,000 units of streptokinase in 53 patients with acute myocardial ischemia treated by a mobile-care unit at home (9 patients) or in the hospital (44 patients). Treatment was begun an average (+/- S.D.) of 1.7 +/- 0.8 hours from the onset of pain. Non-Q-wave infarctions developed subsequently in eight patients, whereas all the others had typical Q-wave infarct patterns. In 81 per cent of the patients the infarct-related artery was patent at angiography performed four to nine days after admission. Vessel patency was independent of the time of treatment, but residual left ventricular function was time dependent. Patients treated less than 1.5 hours after the onset of pain had a significantly higher ejection fraction (56 +/- 15 vs. 47 +/- 14 per cent; P less than 0.05) and infarct-related regional ejection fraction (51 +/- 19 vs. 34 +/- 20 per cent; P less than 0.01) and a lower QRS score (5.6 +/- 4.9 vs. 8.6 +/- 5.5; P less than 0.01) than patients receiving treatment between 1.5 and 4 hours after the onset of pain. Patients treated earlier by the mobile-care unit also had better-preserved left ventricular function than patients treated in the hospital. We conclude that thrombolytic therapy with streptokinase is most effective if given within the first 1.5 hours after the onset of symptoms of acute myocardial infarction.