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123I-metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scintigraphy has been used to predict prognosis of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), although it is unknown which parameter of MIBG is the most useful clinically. We studied MIBG in 59 patients with DCM, and followed them up to evaluate the prognosis of DCM. Single photon emission tomography (SPET) and planar imaging were performed, both early (e) and 4 h (delayed, d) post-injection. 201Tl (TL) SPET and radionuclide-ventriculography were also investigated. The total defect score of early and delayed MIBG and 201 Tl (MIBGeDS, MIBGdDS, TLDS) was analysed visually for each SPET image. The heart to mediastinum ratio (H/M) for both the early and delayed MIBG planar images and myocardial washout rate at 4 h were analysed quantitatively. Sixteen patients died during follow-up. Cox Hazards univariate analysis selected washout rate (P < 0.0001), H/Me (P = 0.0012), H/Md (P = 0.0001) and left ventricular ejection fraction (P = 0.0004) as indices for the prediction of cardiac death. Multivariate analysis selected washout rate as the most powerful independent predictor of prognosis (P < 0.0001). Survival curves with a threshold value of 52% for washout rate were able to differentiate a negative outcome from survival (P < 0.0001). TLDS, MIBGeDS and MIBGdDS were not useful in the prediction of prognosis. The washout rate of MIBG is the most potent predictor of cardiac death and is considered clinically useful.