Quantitative global and regional ventriculographic analysis was performed acutely and 1 week later in 46 patients undergoing reperfusion procedures within 6 hours of acute inferior myocardial infarction due to right coronary artery disease. While serial improvement in global left ventricular ejection fraction was not demonstrated for the group, infarct zone regional wall motion did improve (-2.7 +/- 0.9 vs -2.3 +/- 1.4 SD/chord, p less than 0.007). Serial improvement in global ejection fraction was demonstrated in the subgroup of patients treated within 2 hours of symptom onset (55 +/- 10 vs 62 +/- 10%; n = 5; p less than 0.03). Infarct zone regional wall motion improved serially only in the subgroup of patients treated within 3 hours of symptom onset (-2.4 +/- 1.1 vs -1.3 +/- 1.7 SD/chord; n = 11; p less than 0.007). Patients with initially patent arteries had a higher ejection fraction on follow-up catheterization than did those with initially occluded vessels (61 +/- 11 vs 55 +/- 7%; p less than 0.02), and patients with patent arteries at follow-up had a higher ejection fraction than did those whose arteries were occluded (60 +/- 9 vs 48 +/- 4%; p less than 0.0001). We conclude that significant improvement in global and regional left ventricular function in patients with inferior myocardial infarction is possible when reperfusion therapy is begun early or when arterial patency is achieved.