This study was designed to quantitate and describe the incidence and magnitude of myocardial infarction in the canine heart following acute and gradual occlusion of the circumflex or right coronary arteries. In animals with acute occlusion, the circumflex artery was ligated just distal to the bifurcation of the left coronary artery for 4 hr (seven dogs). Gradual occlusion was produced by placing an Ameroid occluder on the circumflex artery for 1 month (nine dogs), 3 months (nine dogs), and 5 months (eight dogs) and on the right coronary artery for 3 months (nine dogs). Ten dogs served as controls. At the end of the experiments the dogs were sacrificed, and identification of myocardial infarction was made with an enzyme-mapping technique in dogs with acute occlusion and with histological methods in dogs with gradual occlusion. The volume of ventricular infarction was determined with the use of an Apple II Computer and graphics tablet. After 3 months, gradual occlusion of the right coronary artery produced a 22% incidence of infarction which was significantly less (P <.01, X2) than the 67% incidence observed with 3 months of gradual circumflex occlusion. The average infarct volume produced by gradual right coronary occlusion was 0.94 + 0.69%. The average volume of left ventricular infarction in animals with circumflex acute occlusion was 15.6% + 6.6 and the incidence of infarction was 100%. With gradual occlusion of the circumflex artery for 1, 3, and 5 months, average left ventricular infarction was 2.02 ± 1.01%, 3.13 ± 1.53%, and 2.96 ± 1.35%, respectively. There were no significant differences in the amount of damage observed among the three groups with gradual occlusion, and the average incidence of infarction for these three groups was 76%. In the 1-, 3- or 5- month animals with circumflex occlusion, no additional areas of necrosis subsequent to the original damage were found, indicating that infarction is a single event in this model of gradual occlusion. These results suggest that infarct size is determined primarily by factors at the time of total occlusion and that gradual occlusion allows sufficient time for collateral growth, thereby limiting the extent of myocardial injury.