The etiology of abnormal interventricular septal motion occurring after open-heart surgery using cardiopulmonary bypass has not been clarified. Intraoperative ischemic septal injury has been proposed as one explanation for this finding. To examine this possibility, resting septal perfusion and viability were studied using rest and redistribution thallium-201 scintigraphy in 16 patients before and after coronary artery bypass surgery. The results were compared with septal motion on preoperative and postoperative resting gated blood pool scans. Preoperatively, septal thallium uptake was normal in 10 of 16 patients, and septal motion was normal in 14 of 16. Postoperatively, septal thallium uptake was normal in 11 of 16 patients, while septal motion was abnormal in all. Thus abnormal postoperative septal motion is usually associated with normal septal perfusion and viability on thallium scans and therefore is not the result of septal ischemic injury in a majority of patients.