Eighty-six consecutive hospital survivors (aged less than or equal to 60 years) of a first non-Q-wave acute myocardial infarction (MI) were followed up prospectively. Coronary arteriography was performed a median of 2 weeks after MI. The size of the MI was small (as judged by a mean peak creatine kinase level of 906 IU/liter); 90% were in Killip class I, and the mean left ventricular ejection fraction was 60 +/- 11% (+/- standard deviation). Forty-nine patients had 1 vessel significantly narrowed by disease (greater than or equal to 70% luminal diameter reduction), 19 had 2-vessel, 2 had 3-vessel, 3 had left main (greater than or equal to 50% luminal diameter reduction), and 13 minimal or no coronary artery disease (CAD). Complete occlusion of the MI-related vessel was present in 33 patients. All 33 and an additional 5 patients had collateral vessels to the MI area. During a mean follow-up of 25 months, 1 cardiac death and 4 recurrent infarcts (3 with non-Q-wave MI) occurred. Angina occurred in 53 patients (62%) and responded medically in all but 7 who underwent coronary artery surgery. Angina after MI occurred frequently in patients with severe proximal left anterior descending CAD (greater than or equal to 90%), and in those with CAD (greater than or equal to 50%) in a vessel supplying collaterals to the infarct area. Because angina can be managed medically in most patients and the outcome is good, routine coronary angiography is not indicated in asymptomatic survivors less than or equal to 60 years of a first non-Q-wave MI.