Objectives. We sought to characterize the clinical determinants of mortality in patients with angiographically diagnosed ischemic or nonischemic cardiomyopathy. Background. Patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy may have a worse prognosis than patients with nonischemic cardiomyopathy. Few studies have assessed the effect of ischemic versus nonischemic etiology on outcomes. Methods. We analyzed prospectively collected data on 3,787 patients with a left ventricular ejection fraction ≤40% who underwent coronary angiography. Patients were considered to have ischemic cardiomyopathy (n=3,112) if they had a history of myocardial infarction, percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, coronary artery bypass graft surgery or at least one major epicardial coronary artery with ≤75% stenosis; all others were considered to have nonischemic cardiomyopathy (n = 675). Results. The median age, ejection fraction and proportion of patients with New York Heart Association functional class III or IV symptoms for the nonischemic and ischemic groups were 55 years versus 63 years, 27% versus 32% and 57% versus 25%, respectively. After adjustment for baseline clinical risk factors and presenting characteristics, ischemic etiology remained an important independent predictor of 5-year mortality (p < 0.0001). The extent of coronary artery disease was a better predictor of survival than ischemic or nonischemic etiology (log likelihood chi-square 700 vs. 675, respectively). Conclusions. Ischemic etiology is a significant independent predictor of mortality in patients with cardiomyopathy. However, the extent of coronary artery disease contributes more prognostic information than the clinical diagnosis of ischemic or nonischemic cardiomyopathy. Further research is needed to refine the clinical definition of ischemic cardiomyopathy so that physicians can appropriately prescribe treatment and accurately predict outcome.