Historically, long coronary artery stenoses undergoing percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) are reported to have reduced procedural and clinical success in comparison with shorter lesions. The efficacy of long balloons (30 or 40 mm) in long lesions was evaluated. Eighty-two patients had 84 PTCA procedures with a primary long balloon. In all, 86 lesions were available for analysis. Data were collected prospectively on standard PTCA procedure forms. Coronary angiograms were reviewed and measured with digital calipers. Hospital charts were examined for complications. PTCA was performed in the left anterior descending artery in 44 cases (51%), the right coronary artery in 29 (34%) and the circumflex artery in 13 (15%). With the use of a modified classification system, 47 lesions (55%) were class C, 24 (28%) were class B2 and 15 (17%) were class B1. Mean lesion length was 22 +/- 11 mm (range 10 to 72), and 38 lesions (44%) were > or = 20 mm. Twelve patients received an intracoronary stent. The long balloon alone produced angiographic success (< 50% residual stenosis) in 77 lesions (90%). Angiographic success was achieved ultimately in all stenoses, using a stent in 7 patients and a short balloon in 2. There were 2 deaths (2%) and 1 Q-wave myocardial infarction (1%). One patient needed coronary artery bypass surgery. Clinical success without death, Q-wave infarction or bypass surgery was achieved in 83 of 86 procedures (97%). In conclusion, the use of long PTCA balloons with adjuvant stenting produced excellent results in these long stenoses. Lesion length was not a precursor of poor angiographic or clinical outcome.