In 89 of 97 consecutive patients with myocardial infarction (MI) undergoing thrombolysis and delayed early coronary angiography with PTCA, if indicated, heart rate variability (HRV) in time domain was evaluable 40 ± 11 h after the onset of chest pain using 24-hour ECG recordings. Patients with anterior MI (n = 40) had lower values for HRV and left ventricular ejection fraction (p < 0.05). The mean of all 5-min standard deviations of RR intervals (SDNNi) and the root-mean-square difference of successive RR intervals (rMSSD) decreased significantly (p < 0.001 each), whereas the standard deviation of all normal RR intervals and the percentage of absolute differences between successive RR intervals only showed a tendency to lower values 4 weeks after MI (p = 0.20 and 0.08, respectively). The decreases in SDNNi and rMSSD were more evident in inferior than in anterior MI. The time course of HRV following MI was similar in patients with and without PTCA. These results indicate an initial vagal hyperactivity in inferior MI, which is quickly predominated by sympathetic activation and a prolonged recovery of the cardiac autonomic imbalance after MI despite a successful combined reperfusion therapy.