Serum total creatine kinase (CK), CK-MB and myoglobin (Mb) were serially determined in 17 patients who underwent endomyocardial biopsy. Mean total CK levels increased from 36 +/- 27 U/l 30 min before biopsy to a maximum of 112 +/- 77 U/l 8 h following the procedure (p less than 0.05). Similarly, Mb concentrations rose from 57 +/- 55 micrograms/l to 119 +/- 57 micrograms/l 30 min after biopsy (p less than 0.05). Normalization of total CK and Mb levels occurred within 16 and 8 h, respectively. A new immunoenzymetric assay (IEMA) was used to measure the mass concentration of the CK-MB molecule. The initial CK-MB levels were 0.2 +/- 0.4 microgram/l; a small but significant elevation was recorded as early as 2 h after biopsy (1.6 +/- 1.5 micrograms/l, p less than 0.05). CK-MB returned to initial concentration 16 h after the beginning of the procedure. Comparison with the maximum CK-MB levels recorded in 16 myocardial infarction patients (258 +/- 172 micrograms/l, range 90-680 micrograms/l) indicated that the modest increase of CK-MB level detected after biopsy probably reflects a limited endomyocardium lesion at the sampling site, excluding any significant myocardial damage. Total CK and Mb, which showed more pronounced elevations than CK-MB, are likely to originate from other sources than the myocardium.