A prospective randomized study comparing intensive medical therapy with urgent coronary bypass surgery for the acute management of patients with unstable angina pectoris was carried out by nine cooperating medical centers under the auspices of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Between 1972 and 1976, a total of 288 patients were entered into the study; 79 of these (27 percent of the total study group) with 70 percent or more fixed obstruction in one or more coronary arteries had episodes of pain at rest associated with transient S-T segment elevation. Forty-two were randomized to medical and 37 to surgical therapy. The hospital mortality rate was 4.8 percent for the medical and 5.4 percent for the surgical group (difference not significant). The rate Of in-hospital myocardial infarction was 12 percent in the medical and 14 percent in the surgical group (difference not significant). During the 1st and 2nd years of follow-up, 25 percent in the medical and 15 percent in the surgical group complained of New York Heart Association class III or IV angina (difference not significant). During an average follow-up period of 42 months 45 percent of the medically treated patients later underwent surgery to relieve unacceptable angina. In the medical group 65 percent were working full- or part-time at the end of 1 year and 61 percent at the end of 2 years of follow-up; comparable figures for the surgically treated group were 63 and 68 percent. The results indicate that patients with unstable angina pectoris with transient S-T segment elevation during pain at rest with fixed obstruction of 70 percent or more in one or more coronary arteries do not differ significantly from patients with pain at rest associated with transient S-T segment depression or T wave inversion. The condition of such patients can be stabilized, and they can be managed with a maximal medical program including propranolol and long-acting nitrates in pharmacologic doses with good control of pain in most and no increase in rate of early mortality or myocardial infarction. Later, elective surgery can be performed with a lower risk and good clinical results if the patient's angina fails to respond to intensive medical therapy. © 1980.