A retrospective observational study using database registry of consecutive patients admitted to 16 King County hospital Coronary Care Units (CCU) was conducted to assess gender differences in symptom presentation for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and investigate how symptom presentation relates to prehospital delay time interval from acute symptom onset to emergency department (ED) presentation. Between January 1991 and February 1993, 4,497 patients were admitted to the CCUs with diagnosed AMI. Accredited record technicians abstracted age, gender, race, transport method, symptom presentation (chest pain, sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, epigastric pain, and fainting), delay time interval between acute symptom onset and presentation to hospital ED, and discharge diagnosis from the patients' medical records. After adjusting for age and history of diabetes, no gender differences remained for frequencies of chest pain, fainting, or epigastric pain. Women reported more nausea and shortness of breath but less sweating than men as symptoms of AMI. Chest pain, sweating, and fainting were associated with decreasing delay time intervals. Age, gender, histories of AMI and diabetes, and transport choice were also significantly related to delay time interval. These results show that gender differences occur in AMI symptom experience. However, how symptoms relate to the gender gap in delay time interval is not clear. These findings suggest that health care professionals need to tailor information about possible symptoms of AMI to the patient's gender, age, and medical history.