The incidence of ventricular tachyarrhythmias in the early post-operative period following implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) implantation is relatively high compared with that in control periods. Since endothelin-1 (ET-1) has been proven to be an endogenous arrhythmogenic substance, we investigated the changes in serum ET-1 and big-ET levels in patients undergoing ICD implantation. Serum concentrations of ET-1 and big-ET were measured in 14 patients with various heart diseases before the operation, as well as 1 min and 1 h after the last shock therapy. Big-ET levels and the sum of ET-1 and big-ET levels were unchanged immediately after the operation, but had increased significantly by 1 h after implantation (before, 1.57+/-0.61 pmol/l; 1 min, 1.86+/-0.87 pmol/l; 1 h, 4.29+/-1.65 pmol/l for big-ET; before, 3.44+/-1.07 pmol/l; 1 min, 3.79+/-1.29 pmol/l; 1 h, 6.36+/-2.03 pmol/l for big-ET+ET-1). There was a significant correlation between left ventricular ejection fraction and big-ET level measured 1 h after the last shock delivery (r=-0.542, P<0.05). We conclude that the increased big-ET level observed 1 h after the last induction and shock therapy of ventricular fibrillation might have a pathophysiological role in the increased incidence of post-operative spontaneous ventricular arrhythmias.