To establish the precision of anticoagulant control in the first three months after mechanical heart valve replacement, 53 patients from a consecutive series of 91 were telephoned and asked to read out their anticoagulation record. The levels of international normalised ratio (INR) were analysed by Rosendaal's method. Twenty-nine per cent of patient days were spent with an INR in the recommended range of 3.0-4.5. Warfarin dosage was increased at a median INR of 2.1 (interquartile range 1.7-2.3), unchanged at 2.7 (interquartile range 2.3-3.1) and decreased at 4.3 (interquartile range 3.6-5.1). Anticoagulant control is poor in the first three months after mechanical heart valve replacement. Data on the INR at which warfarin dosage is changed suggest either that recommended guidelines are not being followed or a reluctance to increase the dosage in patients receiving inadequate anticoagulation.