Objectives. The purpose of this study was to assess the value of recombinant desulfatohirudin (hirudin) as adjunctive therapy to thrombolysis in acute myocardial infarction. Background. Failure to achieve initial reperfusion and reocclusion of the infarct-related artery remain major limitations of thrombolytic therapy despite aggressive regimens of heparin and aspirin. Hirudin, a direct thrombin inhibitor, has been shown in experimental models to enhance thrombolysis and reduce reocclusion. Methods. The Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) 5 trial was a randomized, dose-ranging, pilot trial of hirudin versus heparin, given with front-loaded tissue-type plasminogen activator and aspirin to 246 patients with acute myocardial infarction. Patients received either intravenous heparin or hirudin at one of four ascending doses for 5 days. Patients underwent coronary angiography at 90 min and at 18 to 36 h, unless rescue angioplasty was performed. Results. The primary end point, TIMI grade 3 flow in the infarct-related artery at 90 min and 18 to 36 h without death or reinfarction before the 18- to 36-h catheterization was achieved in 97 (61.8%) of 157 evaluable hirudin-treated patients compared with 39 (49.4%) of 79 evaluable heparin-treated patients (p = 0.07). All four doses of hirudin led to similar findings in the angiographic and clinical end points. At 90 min, TIMI grade 3 How was present in 105 (64.8%) of 162 hirudin-treated patients compared with 48 (57.1%) of 84 heparin-treated patients (p = NS). Infarct-related artery patency (TIMI grade 2 or 3 flow) was similar in the two groups (82.1% and 78.6%, respectively). At 18 to 36 h, 129 (97.8%) of 132 hirudin-treated patients had a patent infarct-related artery compared with 58 (89.2%) of 65 heparin-treated patients (p = 0.01). Reocclusion by 18 to 36 h occurred in 2 (1.6%) of 123 hirudin-treated patients versus 4 (6.7%) of 60 heparin-treated patients (p = 0.07). Death or reinfarction occurred during the hospital period in 11 (6.8%) of 162 hirudin-treated patients compared with 14 (16.7%) of 84 heparin-treated patients (p = 0.02). Major spontaneous hemorrhage occurred in 1.2% of hirudin-treated patients versus 4.7% of heparin-treated patients (p = 0.09), and major hemorrhage at an instrumented site occurred in 16.3% and 18.6%, respectively (p = NS). Conclusions. Hirudin is a promising agent compared with heparin as adjunctive therapy with thrombolysis for acute myocardial infarction, and its evaluation in larger trials is warranted. © 1994.