The NHLBI PTCA Registry has collected data from 3,079 patients who underwent PTCA at 105 centers from September 1977 through September 1981 that document the initial risks and benefits of PTCA. A subgroup of 2,272 patients at 65 centers was chosen to examine the long-term effects of PTCA (97% follow-up). All patients were followed for 1 year, 191 for 3 years and 57 for 4 years. Initial success occurred in 1,397 (61%), and 72% remained improved at 1 year with no further procedures; during the first year of follow-up, 14% had repeat PTCA, 12% had CABG, 3% had MI and 1.6% died. After 1 year, 67% were asymptomatic; of these, 52% had no other procedure, 7% had a second PTCA and 8% had CABG. Follow-up at 2 to 4 years was similar except that there were few repeat PTCA or CABG procedures after 1 year. The annual mortality rate after PTCA in patients with 1-vessel diseases was less than 1% per year and with multivessel CAD, 3% per year. Thus, successful PTCA alone results in sustained improvement in 84% of patients; 59% were asymptomatic (12% had repeat PTCA). PTCA offers extended effective therapy in selected patients with CAD.