To determine whether acutely ischemic myocardium could be more effectively salvaged by reperfusion on cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) in the cardioplegia-treated heart than with reperfusion in the beating, working heart, 52 greyhound dogs underwent 3 hours of left anterior descending (LAD) occlusion and were randomly assigned to one of four groups. In Group I (19 dogs) the LAD occlusion was released at 3 hours and reperfusion continued in the beating, working heart for an additional 3 hours. Group II (six dogs), Group III (14 dogs), and Group IV (13 dogs) were placed on CPB and underwent 45 minutes of hypothermic ischemic arrest protected by aortic root potassium cardioplegia. In Group II, only aortic root potassium cardioplegia was given; in Group III, the ischemic area was perfused with potassium cardioplegic solution via a graft from the internal mammary artery (IMA) to the LAD. In Group IV, blood cardioplegic solution via the IMA-LAD graft was used. After the cross-clamp and local occlusion were removed, CPB was discontinued after an additional 45 minuted and reperfusion was continued off CPB for an additional 1 1/2 hours (total 6 hours). The ischemic area at risk was determined by injecting monastryl blue dye via the left atrium while the LAD was briefly reoccluded. After the animal had been sacrificed and the left ventricle had been sectioned, the area of myocardial necrosis was determined by nonstaining with triphenyltetrazolium chloride (TTC). For each group, the ratios of area of necrosis/area at risk (A(N)/A(R)) were calculated and postreperfusion arrhythmias were documented. Postreperfusion arrhythmias were noted in 11 of 12 animals in the beating, working heart group and only two of 24 in the combined CPB groups. The mean A(N)/A(R) was 66% ± 2% in the beating, working heart (Group I), 59% ± 6% after infusion of potassium cardioplegic solution into the aortic root (Group II), 57% ± 6% with blood cardioplegia (Group IV), and 38% ± 6.5% after global and local application of the potassium cardioplegic solution into the ischemic area (Group III). This study suggests that the reperfused ischemic myocardium will sustain less necrosis and less postreperfusion arrhythmias when the heart is protected by global and local cold potassium cardioplegia on CPB.