Between 1990 and 1993, patient selection and relative effectiveness of thrombolytic agents were issues for clinical trials of thrombolytic therapy, particularly the Third International Study of Infarct Survival (ISIS-3) and the Second Gruppo Italiano per Lo Studio della Streptochinasi nell'Infarto Miocardico trials. The purpose of this report is to document the use of coronary thrombolytic therapy in community hospital practice during this period. Patients admitted to the coronary care unit of 6 hospitals with suspect acute myocardial infarction (AMI) between 1990 and 1993 were prospectively enrolled in the Minnesota Heart Survey Registry. Of the 1,225 patients with AMI enrolled, 310 men (37%) and 103 women (26%) received thrombolytic therapy (p < 0.001). The age-adjusted male-to-female odds ratio (95% confidence interval) for receiving thrombolysis among patients with < or = 12 hours since symptom onset was 1.33 (0.94, 1.87). The proportion of those treated receiving tissue plasminogen activator declined from 196 (64%) to 102 (34%) between 1990 and 1991 and 1992 and 1993. Use of streptokinase increased from 48 (16%) to 156 (52%) during the same time period. There were no statistically significant gender or lytic agent type differences in complications from thrombolytic therapy. Changes in type of agent used coincided with the release of results from the ISIS-3 trial.