The hypertrophied left ventricle is at considerably greater risk for injury when subjected to global ischemia than is an otherwise normal heart. We evaluated the efficacy of verapamil, a calcium-channel blocking agent, as an adjunct to standard crystalloid cardioplegic solution in animals with left ventricular hypertrophy subjected to myocardial ischemia during cardiopulmonary bypass. Infracoronary aortic stenosis was produced in 15 mongrel puppies by plication of the noncoronary cusp of the aortic valve. Studies were conducted 3 to 4 months later. Left ventricular catheter-tip pressure transducers and major and minor axis ultrasonic dimension crystals were inserted, and the animals were then supported by cardiopulmonary bypass with 30 minutes of normothermic ischemia. Animals were randomized to receive either standard hyperkalemic crystalloid cardioplegic solution (n = 8) or the same solution with verapamil, 0.1 mg/kg (n = 7). After the 30 minutes of ischemia, the animals were supported on cardiopulmonary bypass for an additional 30 minutes and then separated from bypass. They were then studied for another 2 hours by measurement of myocardial adenosine triphosphate content, myocardial blood flow, systolic function with use of the end-systolic pressure/volume ratio, and compliance with use of the natural strain coefficient of the minor axis at 15 mm Hg end-diastolic pressure. There was a better recovery of systolic function in the animals treated with verapamil (89.2% versus 63.3%). The compliance as measured with use of the minor axis natural strain coefficient returned essentially to baseline in the group of animals treated with verapamil (0.236 +/- 0.038 before ischemia and 0.254 +/- 0.043 2 hours after ischemia), but it fell markedly in the control animals (0.219 +/- 0.027 before ischemia and 0.153 +/- 0.016 2 hours after ischemia). Myocardial adenosine triphosphate levels were not significantly different at any time during the study. Likewise, myocardial blood flow was not significantly different between groups. We conclude that the addition of verapamil to hyperkalemic cardioplegic solution improves recovery of both systolic and diastolic function after global ischemia in dogs with left ventricular hypertrophy resulting from aortic stenosis. The precise mechanism for this is unknown.