The relation of the simplified Selvester QRS scoring system for the estimation of myocardial infarct size to survival was studied in 1,915 nonsurgically treated patients with documented coronary artery disease. Electrocardiograms (ECGs) were scored according to a simplified 29 point QRS scoring system. Using Cox model analyses, QRS scores were found to provide strong prognostic information by themselves (p less than 0.0001). Higher QRS scores were associated with lower survival rates. Patients with a score of 0 had a 1 year survival rate of 95% and a 5 year survival rate of 88%; patients with a score of 10 or more had survival rates of 81 and 52%, respectively, at the same intervals. Directly compared with the presence or absence of Q waves on the ECG, QRS scores provided greater prognostic information (p less than 0.001). When compared with 13 individual factors previously shown to provide the greatest independent prognostic information, the QRS score was the third most powerful individual prognostic factor. It did not contribute independent prognostic information in combination with the whole group, but did provide independent information in combination with the six most predictive factors. Its prognostic information overlapped mostly with clinical factors related to heart failure, and combined best with clinical factors related to the severity of ongoing myocardial ischemia. Because it is inexpensive and simple and maximizes the prognostic information from the ECG, the simplified Selvester QRS scoring system can be a useful clinical descriptor for practitioners and clinical investigators.