During a 32-month period 2047 patients suspected of having heart attacks were admitted to hospital and were followed up prospectively. Out of 1480 eventually found to have definite or probable myocardial infarction, 483 had initially been admitted to an ordinary medical ward because of the shortage of coronary care unit (CCU) beds. More patients aged over 65 had been admitted to a ward than to a CCU, and more patients aged 65 or less had been admitted initially to a CCU. Within each age group, however, patients admitted initially to a CCU were clinically similar to those admitted initially to a ward. There was a higher proportion of successful resuscitations among patients admitted to a CCU, but there was no significant difference in mortality in either age group between patients admitted to a CCU and a ward.