Infiltration by mononuclear cells, mostly monocytes, into necrotic myocardial tissue can be detected beyond the 3rd day after the onset of infarction. These monocytes, mobilized by an unknown mechanism, initiate phagocytosis of necrotic tissue. We observed in patients having sustained an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) a significant increase in monocyte count 2–3 days following presentation, possibly representing peripheral recruitment of monocytes to the injured myocardium. To establish this observation, we prospectively documented monocyte and neutrophil counts throughout hospitalization in 186 consecutive patients (118 patients having sustained an AMI, 34 patients with angina, and 34 patients admitted for nonischemic reasons). Average monocyte count, which rose on the 2nd day and reached a peak on day 3, was significantly elevated in these patients compared with control subjects (p < 0.001). Neutrophil count exhibited a similar phase-shifted response. Peak monocyte count exceeded 800/mm<sup>3</sup> (upper limit of normal range) in 69 (58%) of AMI patients but in only 3 of the 68 (4%) non-AMI patients, yielding a sensitivity and specificity of 58 and 95%, respectively, for the diagnosis of AMI by this criterion. A significant correlation between maximal creatine kinase (CK) representing the extent of myocardial necrosis and peak monocyte count was shown (r = 0.51, p < 0.0001). A correlation between CK and monocyte count sum of days 1–3 (r = 0.51, p < 0.001) was found in a substudy of 25 patients with AMI. Similarly, a correlation was shown with cardiac function score as evaluated by 2-dimensional echocardiography (p < 0.001 and p < 0.008 for difference between CK sum and monocyte count sum of high and low echo score groups, respectively). Hence, the peak monocyte count recorded during the immediate postinfarction period provides a bedside marker of the extent of myocardial damage that is the preponderant prognostic determinant. If validated in future studies this phenomenon may have diagnostic and prognostic implications.