During the 10-year period ending 1 March 1978, 100 consecutive patients with penetrating cardiac wounds entered the Bexar County Hospital with some sign of life. The early and late mortality rate. 11%, declined to 8% during the last 4 years. Noncardiac injuries were responsible for six of the eleven deaths. Complications occurred in 17. The most frequently injured chambers were the right ventricle (46) and left ventricle (30). Sixty-nine patients had stab wounds and 26 had gunshot wounds. Pericardiocentesis was falsely positive or negative in 12 of 47 patients. Two distinct syndromes were apparent, hemorrhagic shock and cardiac tamponade. Patients with shock had immediate thoracotomy. Patients with suspected tamponade had a subxiphoid pericardial window, under local or light general anesthesia, for diagnosis and decompression before endotracheal intubation and sternotomy. Most wounds were repaired by direct suture. Cardiopulmonary bypass and thoracotomy before arrival in the operating room were rarely indicated.