BACKGROUND: Medical treatment of the elderly is changing to include the aggressive management of coronary artery disease with percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to review major hospital events of patients aged 70 years or more, who underwent a first percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty. METHODS: A retrospective medical record review was done of 246 consecutive patients of 70 years or more, from January 1985 to December 1988, at a tertiary care community hospital. Adverse events and the factors that influenced outcome were identified. RESULTS: Of 246 patients (age range, 70-85 years, mean = 73.6), 19 died, 4 had a cerebral vascular accident, 11 had a transfusion and 11 underwent coronary artery bypass grafting. Sixteen patients had acute vessel closure and 8 died. Twenty-five patients had one event and 21 patients had more than one. DISCUSSION: The event rate after percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty in the elderly is high. CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge of the factors that influence adverse events (diagnostic category, success of procedure, degree of coronary artery disease and age) will assist the critical care team to plan and implement appropriate care.