Medical versus surgical treatment of unstable angina was compared in a prospective nonrandomized study of 118 patients. Acute transient ST-T wave changes were present during chest pain in all patients. Acute infarction was excluded by serial electrocardiograms and enzyme studies. All patients admitted to the coronary care unit from 1970 to 1975 who fulfilled the entry criteria were included in the study. The starting point for data evaluation was 5 days after hospital admission. Characteristics at entry were similar in 66 medically treated patients and 52 patients who had coronary bypass vein graft surgery. During a mean follow-up period of 23 months in 66 medically treated patients with unstable angina the incidence rate of nonfatal myocardial infarction was 17% and the total mortality rate 21 percent compared with respective rates of 19% and 5.8% in 52 surgically treated patients. In the surgical group 8 patients (15%) had a perioperative infarction and only 2 (4%) had a late infarction; one patient (2%) died at operation. Symptomatic improvement was observed more frequently in the surgically treated group. Sixty percent of surgically treated patients were free of angina compared with 21% of medically treated patients. Eight medically treated patients (12%) required late surgical treatment for persistent severe angina despite optimal medical management.