Current limitations of recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator (rt-PA) therapy for acute myocardial infarction include failure to achieve recanalization in 25% of patients, reocclusion and reperfusion injury. Iloprost, a stable analogue of prostacyclin (PGI2), has been demonstrated to facilitate thrombolysis and reduce myocardial stunning in experimental models. To evaluate combined therapy, rt-PA (100 mg 3 h) and Iloprost (2 ng/kg per min for 48 h) were administered to 25 patients and then rt-PA alone (same dose) was given to an additional 25 patients with evolving myocardial infarction. At 90 min after drug administration, infarct-related vessel patency was observed in 11 (44%) of 25 who received rt-PA plus Iloprost compared with 15 (60%) of 25 who received rt-PA alone (p = 0.26). At 1 week, reocclusion had occurred in 3 (14%) of 21 patients who received combined therapy compared with 6 (26%) of 23 patients treated with rt-PA alone (p = 0.46). Ejection fraction increased significantly from baseline to 7 days for rt-PA alone whereas it decreased with combined therapy (rt-PA alone whereas it decreased with combined therapy (rt-PA alone: 47.3 +/- 11.5% at baseline to 50.4 +/- 9.8% at 7 days; rt-PA plus Iloprost: 51.3 +/- 10.1% at baseline to 49.0 +/- 9.4% at 7 days; difference between groups p = 0.05). At 4 h after therapy, fibrinogen decreased 33% for rt-PA plus Iloprost compared with a 52% for rt-PA alone (p = 0.001). Fibrinogen degradation products increased 60% more for rt-PA alone than for rt-PA plus Ilprost. Thus, the combination of rt-PA plus Iloprost at the doses employed did not improve immediate or follow-up coronary artery patency or left ventricular functional recovery compared with that achieved with rt-PA alone.