Forty patients who recently underwent coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) operations had serial hemodynamic and scintigraphic studies. Multidose hypothermic potassium crystalloid cardioplegia was used for myocardial protection and newer techniques in anesthetic management and perioperative patient care were also employed. The method of equilibrium cardiac gated blood pool (GBP) scintigraphy was used to obtain perioperative changes in global ejection fraction (EF) and regional wall motion (RWM). Ninety percent of patients displayed a decrease in EF 2 hours postoperatively when compared to their preoperative values. This change was also associated with a fall in cardiac index (CI) and left ventricular stroke work index (LVSWI). Twenty-four hours postoperatively, EF and CI recovered to preoperative levels, but LVSWI remained depressed. Seven days postoperatively, global EF had improved to a value greater than the preoperative one (50% +/- 3% versus 57% +/- 4%, p < 0.05). Perioperative changes in RWM followed the same pattern as EF, but recovery in this index of regional contractility was faster than EF, since maximal improvement was observed 24 hours postoperatively. Thus transient left ventricular dysfunction is common immediately after CABG, but recent advances in myocardial protection and perioperative management are associated with short-term increases in regional and global left ventricular function documented by noninvasive GBP imaging.