This study compared exercise to adenosine thallium‐201 single photon emission computed tomography in detecting occlusion of left anterior descending or right coronary arteries in patients with no previous myocardial infarction. There were 41 patients who underwent adenosine thallium imaging (adenosine infusion at a rate of 140 μg/kg/min for 6 min), and 143 patients who underwent exercise thallium imaging. There were more patients with right coronary than left anterior descending coronary artery occlusion. Thus, in the adenosine group, there were 15 patients with left anterior descending artery occlusion, and 26 with right coronary artery occlusion, and in the exercise group, there were 46 patients with left anterior descending artery occlusion, and 97 patients with right coronary artery occlusion. In the adenosine group, the thallium images were abnormal in 41 patients (100%), while in the exercise group, the thallium images were abnormal in 125 patients (87%, P < 0.02) in the territories of the occluded arteries. ST segment depression was noted in 19 patients (46%) in the adenosine group, and 69 patients (48%) in the exercise group (P: NS). In patients with isolated single vessel occlusion, the size of the perfusion abnormality was 28 ± 9% with adenosine, and 21 ± 12% with exercise (P: NS). Thus, most patients with occlusion of the left anterior descending or right coronary artery have regional perfusion abnormality during stress; the different role of collaterals with each type of stress may explain the higher percentage of abnormal results with adenosine than exercise. Copyright © 1992 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.