Fluorine NMR spectroscopy of sequestered perfluorocarbon emulsion has been used to measure myocardial oxygen tension. This novel application provides a rapid noninvasive assessment of changes in oxygen tension in response to ischemia and reperfusion. Rats were predosed with Oxypherol-ET (emulsion of perfluorotributylamine). Following vascular clearance of the emulsion the heart was excised and perfused using the Langendorff retrograde technique. 19F spin-lattice relaxation time measurements provided an accurate estimate of myocardial pO2. Using a two-point determination with a time resolution of 1 s, the loss of oxygen was found to be complete within 40 s of the onset of global ischemia. The fall in oxygen tension correlated closely with an observed loss of ventricular pressure. Magnetic resonance imaging showed that perfluorocarbon was distributed throughout the heart; thus, this reporter molecule provides a global measurement of oxygen tension.