Within 1 year, 434 patients were admitted to 14 hospitals with suspected acute myocardial infarction (AMI) < or = 4 hours after the onset of symptoms. Group A consisted of 171 patients (39%) treated with thrombolysis, and group B consisted of 263 patients (61%) with contraindications. Patients in group A more likely had a "definite AMI" (92%; group A1) than patients in group B (67%; group B1). Group B1 had 277 contraindications (1.6/per patient) with increased risk for life-threatening bleeding being the most frequently recorded at admission. The in-hospital mortality in group A1 was 7% (11 of 158) and in group B1, 27% (47 of 177) (p < 0.0001). Age and type of therapy (thrombolysis or no thrombolysis) were identified as independent predictors of increased mortality (p < 0.0001 and < 0.05, respectively). Thus, although most patients with an AMI are excluded from thrombolytic therapy because of contraindications, our data suggest that their in-hospital mortality is unexpectedly high. Further evaluation of this group of patients is warranted to define the impact of contraindications as an independent factor of mortality.