Following establishment of its efficacy in hypertension and congestive heart failure, the ACE inhibitor lisinopril has now been shown to reduce mortality and cardiovascular morbidity in patients with myocardial infarction when administered as early treatment. The ability of lisinopril to attenuate the detrimental effects of left ventricular remodelling is a key mechanism; however, additional cardioprotective and vasculoprotective actions are postulated to play a role in mediating the early benefit. The GISSI-3 trial in > 19 000 patients has demonstrated that, when given orally within 24 hours of symptom onset and continued for 6 weeks, lisinopril (with or without nitrates) produces measurable survival benefits within 1 to 2 days of starting treatment. Compared with no lisinopril treatment, reductions of 11% in risk of mortality and 7.7% in a combined end-point (death plus severe left ventricular dysfunction) were evident at 6 weeks. Advantages were apparent in all types of patients. Thus, those at high risk-women, the elderly, patients with diabetes mellitus and those with anterior infarct and/or Killip class > 1 -also benefited. These gains in combined end-point events persisted in the longer term, despite treatment withdrawal after 6 weeks in most patients. At 6 months, the incidence rate for the combined end-point remained lower than with control (a 6.2% reduction). The GISSI-3 results concur with those from recent large investigations (ISIS-4, CCS-1, SMILE) of other ACE inhibitors as early management in myocardial infarction. However, the results of the CONSENSUS II trial (using intravenous enalaprilat then oral enalapril) were unfavourable in some patients. These findings, together with the development of persistent hypotension and, to a lesser extent, renal dysfunction among patients in the GISSI-3 trial, have prompted considerable debate over optimum treatment strategies. Present opinion generally holds that therapy with lisinopril or other ACE inhibitors shown to be beneficial may be started within 24 hours in haemodynamically stable patients with no other contraindications; current labelling in the US and other countries reflects this position. There is virtually unanimous agreement that such therapy is indicated in high-risk patients, particularly those with left ventricular dysfunction. The choice of ACE inhibitor appears less important than the decision to treat; it seems likely that these benefits are a class effect. Lisinopril has a tolerability profile resembling that of other ACE inhibitors, can be given once daily and may be less costly than other members of its class. However, present cost analyses are flawed and this latter points remains to be proven in formal cost-effectiveness analyses. In conclusion, early treatment with lisinopril (within 24 hours of symptom onset) for 6 weeks improves survival and reduces cardiovascular morbidity in patients with myocardial infarction, and confers ongoing benefit after drug withdrawal. While patients with symptoms of left ventricular dysfunction are prime candidates for treatment, all those who are haemodynamically stable with no other contraindications are also eligible to receive therapy. Lisinopril and other ACE inhibitors shown to be beneficial should therefore be considered an integral part of the early management of myocardial infarction in suitable patients.