To assess the value and timing of percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) after thrombolytic therapy for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), 586 patients in the Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction Study Phase II-A were randomized among three treatment strategies, one using immediate coronary arteriography followed by PTCA if appropriate (immediate invasive strategy group, n=195), a second that deferred angiography and PTCA for 18-48 hours (delayed invasive strategy group, n=194), and a third, more conservative, approach in which PTCA was used only if ischemia occurred spontaneously or at the time of predischarge exercise testing (conservative strategy group, n=197). Predischarge contrast left ventricular ejection fraction, the primary study end point, was similar among the patients in all three treatment groups and averaged 49.3%. The finding of a patent infarct-related artery at the time of predischarge arteriography was equally common among the patients in the three groups (mean, 83.7%); however, the mean residual infarct artery stenosis was greater in the patients in the conservative strategy group (67.2%) as compared with the patients in the immediate invasive (50.6%) and the delayed invasive strategy groups (47.8%) (p<0.001). Immediate invasive strategy led to a higher rate of coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) after PTCA (7.7%) than did delayed invasive and conservative strategies (2.1% and 2.5%, respectively; p<0.01). Furthermore, among patients not undergoing CABG during the first 21 days, blood transfusion of more than 1 unit was used in 13.8% of the patients in the immediate invasive strategy group, 3.1% of the patients in the delayed invasive strategy group, and 2.0% of the patients in the conservative strategy group (p<0.001). At 1-year follow-up, the three treatment groups had similar cumulative rates of mortality (8.7%, pooled over all groups), fatal and nonfatal reinfarction (8.5%), combined death and reinfarction (14.5%), and CABG (17.2%), although the cumulative performance rate of PTCA remained higher in the invasive groups (immediate invasive strategy group, 75.8%; delayed invasive strategy group, 64.3%; and conservative strategy group, 23.9%; p<0.001). Thus, because conservative strategy achieves equally good short- and long-term outcome with less morbidity and a lower use of PTCA, it seems to be the preferred initial management strategy.