Multi-echo spin-echo cardiac magnetic resonance imaging studies (echo times 30, 60, 90 and 120 ms) were performed in 19 patients with a 7-14-day (mean 10) old myocardial infarction and were repeated in 13 patients 4-7 months (mean 6) later. Also, 10 normal subjects were studied with magnetic resonance imaging. T2 relaxation times of certain left ventricular segments were calculated from the signal intensities at echo times of 30 and 90 ms. Compared to normal individuals, the mean T2 values on the early magnetic resonance images of the patients with inferior infarction showed significantly prolonged T2 times in the inferiorly localized segments, while on the follow-up magnetic resonance images the T2 times had almost returned to the normal range. Also the patients with anterior infarction showed significantly prolonged T2 times in the anteriorly localized segments on the early nuclear magnetic resonance images, but the T2 times remained prolonged at the follow-up magnetic resonance images. For every patient a myocardial damage score was determined, which was defined as the sum of the segmental T2 values in the patients minus the upper limit of normal T2 values obtained from the normal volunteers ( = mean normal + 2SD). The damage score on both the early and late magnetic resonance imaging study correlated well with infarct size determined by myocardial enzyme release. Only the patients with an inferior infarction showed a significant decrease in damage score at follow-up magnetic resonance imaging. It is concluded that the regional T2 relaxation times are increased in infarcted myocardial regions and may remain prolonged for at least up to 7 months after the acute event, particularly in patients with an anterior infarction. These findings demonstrate the clinical potential of T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging studies for detecting myocardial infarction, and estimating infarct size for an extended period after acute myocardial infarction.