To investigate the pathogenesis of myocardial infarction we undertook a systematic study of patients with angina at rest, a syndrome known to evolve frequently into infarction. Among 187 consecutive patients, 37 had infarction, all in the area that showed electrocardiographic changes during angina. In all 76 patients who underwent hemodynamic monitoring, 201thallium myocardial scintigraphy or angiography during angina, a vasospastic origin of the attacks was documented. In six patients with infarction shortly after these studies and in two in whom the infarction developed during hemodynamic monitoring or during angiography the onset of infarction was indistinguishable from the onset of anginal attacks. One patient in whom spasm was observed at the onset of infarction died six hours later; at post-mortem examination, a fresh laminar thrombus was found at the site of the spasm. After infarction, complete thrombotic occlusion of the branch shown to undergo vasospasm was documented in two patients by angiography.