To clarify the clinical spectrum of coronary arterial abnormalities in systemic lupus erythematosus, the data were reviewed on six patients who had a diagnosis of lupus at ages 15 to 29 years and who had ischemic heart disease before age 35. Two patients had coronary arteritis diagnosed on postmortem examination. In a third patient alterations in coronary arterial anatomy occurred with angiographic improvement temporally related to the initiation of steroid therapy. The other three patients had severe diffuse atherosclerotic coronary disease that was identified in two at postmortem examination. In the third patient the course of the disease strongly suggested coronary atherosclerosis, and eventually coronary bypass grafting was performed for relief of angina. In summary, clinically important extramural coronary arteritis and atherosclerosis both occur, although rarely, in young patients with lupus. Coronary artery disease may occur with or without coexisting active extracardiac lupus manifestations. Short-term steroid therapy and follow-up angiography for those with angina and in whom coronary arteritis is suspected warrant consideration. When stable coronary arterial anatomy is demonstrated on follow-up angiography, management is determined by the patient's symptoms irrespective of the prior history of lupus and, if indicated, cardiac surgery for symptomatic relief can be safely performed.