Myocardial reperfusion after brief, reversible ischemia is frequently associated with malignant arrhythmias in experimental animals. These observations have been extrapolated to humans despite being restricted to anesthetized, open chest preparations. No data are available regarding the incidence of reperfusion arrhythmias after reversible (less than 20 minutes) ischemia in the conscious state. Thus, reperfusion arrhythmias after a 15 minute occlusion of the left anterior descending coronary artery were compared in 24 open chest dogs (17 anesthetized with pentobarbital and 7 with chloralose plus urethane) and 25 conscious, unsedated, trained dogs. The incidence of all rhythm disorders (single premature ventricular complexes, pairs, ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation) was markedly and significantly lower in conscious than in either pentobarbital- or chloralose-anesthetized dogs. The disparity was not accounted for by differences in coronary collateral flow, coronary reactive hyperemia or occluded bed size. The conscious animals, however, exhibited lower heart rates and arterial pressures during reperfusion than did the open chest dogs, suggesting a lower level of adrenergic stimulation, which might have contributed to the reduced incidence of reperfusion arrhythmias. Coronary reperfusion after 15 minutes of occlusion is unlikely to precipitate ventricular tachyarrhythmias in the conscious, trained dog, even after severe ischemia. The occurrence of these rhythm disorders in anesthetized models may reflect the influence of surgical trauma or excessive adrenergic activity, or both. Reperfusion arrhythmias after reversible ischemia may be considerably less common in the clinical setting than previously postulated on the basis of open chest animal experiments.