In a large prospective study of myocardial ischemia, exercise thallium studies were performed in 896 patients 1 to 6 months after an acute coronary event (acute myocardial infarction, 70%; unstable angina, 30%). Thallium images were analyzed quantitatively and classified as normal or demonstrating either a reversible defect after 2 to 4 hours or having only a fixed defect. The effect of the thallium findings on the time to end point (cardiac death, nonfatal infarction, or unstable angina) were examined by Kaplan-Meier curves and compared using the log-rank statistic. Follow-up averaged 23 months. The likelihood of cardiac death, nonfatal infarction, and unstable angina was similar in patients who had a normal exercise thallium test result or showed only a fixed defect. Moreover, cardiac events were not related to the size of a fixed defect. In contrast, both cardiac death and nonfatal infarction were increased in patients with the largest areas of reversible defects, although the sensitivity for nonfatal myocardial infarction was suboptimal. The presence of a fixed defect on exercise thallium in patients who are stable an average of 2.6 months after an acute cardiac event is associated with a prognosis similar to that of a normal exercise thallium test.