Knowledge about potential differences in infarct tissue characteristics between patients with prior life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia versus patients receiving prophylactic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) might help to improve the current risk stratification in myocardial infarction (MI) patients who are considered for ICD implantation. In a consecutive series of (ICD) recipients for primary and secondary prevention following MI, we used contrast-enhanced (CE) cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging to evaluate differences in infarct tissue characteristics. Cine-CMR measurements included left ventricular end-diastolic and end-systolic volumes (EDV, ESV), left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), wall motion score index (WMSI), and mass. CE-CMR images were analyzed for core, peri, and total infarct size, infarct localization (according to coronary artery territory), and transmural extent. In this study, 95 ICD recipients were included. In the primary prevention group (n = 66), LVEF was lower (23 ± 9 % vs. 31 ± 14 %; P < 0.01), ESV and WMSI were higher (223 ± 75 ml vs. 184 ± 97 ml, P = 0.04, and 1.89 ± 0.52 vs. 1.47 ± 0.68; P < 0.01), and anterior infarct localization was more frequent (P = 0.02) than in the secondary prevention group (n = 29). There were no differences in infarct tissue characteristics between patients treated for primary versus secondary prevention (P > 0.6 for all). During 21 ± 9 months of follow-up, 3 (5 %) patients in the primary prevention group and 9 (31 %) in the secondary prevention group experienced appropriate ICD therapy for treatment of ventricular arrhythmia (P < 0.01). There was no difference in infarct tissue characteristics between recipients of ICD for primary versus secondary prevention, while the secondary prevention group showed a higher frequency of applied ICD therapy for ventricular arrhythmia.