Two different operative techniques for aorta coronary bypass grafting were utilized in two comparable groups of patients. In one group (155 patients) distal anastomoses were carried out with the aorta cross clamped and myocardial protection provided by profound local hypothermia (clamped group). In a second group (149 patients) distal anastomoses were carried out with the aorta unclamped and the left ventricle fibrillating and vented (unclamped group). Mortality rates were similar in the two groups (0.6 per cent in clamped group versus 1.3 per cent in unclamped group). The incidence of perioperative infarction was 15 per cent in the unclamped group and 8 per cent in the clamped group (p<0.05). Postoperative serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT) and lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) levels were significantly higher for the first 4 postoperative days in the unclamped group than in the clamped group. Hemodynamic studies in a subset of each group revealed no important differences in left ventricular function in the immediate postoperative period. The data demonstrate that in patients undergoing aorta coronary bypass grafting, performance of distal anastomoses with aortic cross clamping and profound local hypothermia results in less intraoperative myocardial injury than performance of distal anastomoses in the perfused, fibrillating, and vented left ventricle.