Ligation of the left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) is used to induce experimental myocardial infarction (MI). Most previous studies have focused on the early postoperative period, while data on mid-term follow-up are scanty. This study examined the mid-term effects of LAD ligation in 95 MI rats and 28 controls. The following parameters were evaluated: systemic blood pressure (SBP), heart rate (HR), and plasma brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) level. In addition, M-mode and B-mode echocardiography, histologic examinations, and cardiac hydroxyproline assays were performed. Forty-seven perioperative and 5 late deaths were recorded. Left ventricular dilation, observed 1 mo after MI, did not progress with time. Septal thickening was similar in the 2 groups, while wall thickening was lower in the MI rats at 1 mo only. Stroke volume was diminished in MI rats, while cardiac output was depressed only at 1 and 2 mo, due to increased heart rate. SBP was unchanged and plasma BNP level was similar in the 2 groups. The infarcted area (mean +/- SD) was 35 +/- 10%. The ventricles in MI rats were heavier and had increased hydroxyproline content. In conclusion, these data show that LAD ligation is not only a model of acute MI, but at mid-term it provides a model of chronic ischemic dilated cardiomyopathy.