Studies in animal models and patients have suggested that 31P-magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) may be useful in diagnosing transplant rejection, but such studies often are confounded by the late inclusion of patients after transplantation. The present study examined the utility of 31P-MRS in the diagnosis of acute allograft rejection during the first posttransplant month. Thirteen recent heart transplant recipients underwent 57 resting 31P-MRS studies within 24 hr of a biopsy. Subjects lay supine with a 10-cm surface coil placed over the heart. A 1-dimensionsal chemical shift imaging protocol was used to collect spectral information. Spectra from the heart were weighted for distance from the coil and summed before analysis. ANOVA and Duncan's multiple range test were used to analyze the data comparing phosphocreatine (PCr)/ATP ratios with biopsy scores. Transplant patients had significantly lower myocardial PCr/ATP ratios when compared with a normal control group (1.27 +/- 0.27 versus 1.61 +/- 0.22, p < 0.001). However, when the patient group was classified by biopsy score, the expected order of score, 0 > 1 > 2 > 3, was not obtained. Rather, the order was 2 > 0 > 1 > 3. Although the difference between scores 2 and 3 was significant (1.46 versus 1.14, alpha = 0.05 level), the lower three groups were statistically indistinguishable. In addition, the PCr/ ATP ratios were not predictive of future biopsies. Although significantly lower than normal control subjects, resting myocardial PCr/ATP ratios of transplant subjects are not useful in assessing thelevel of rejection. It is suggested that the measurement may be more predictive in mildly exercised myocardium.