Sildenafil (Viagra) prolongs repolarisation in cardiac muscle, an effect that could lead to ventricular fibrillation (VF). Sildenafil (2 mg kg(-1)) was given by mouth to 12 mongrel dogs and, 24 h later, these dogs were anaesthetised, thoracotomised and subjected to a 25 min occlusion of the anterior descending coronary artery. Haemodynamic parameters were similar in this and the control group, but there were fewer and less serious ventricular arrhythmias during occlusion in the sildenafil group (VF 17 vs 60%; ventricular premature beats 140+/-52 vs 437+/-127% and episodes of ventricular tachycardia 4.0+/-3.2 vs 19.3+/-7.7%, all P<0.05). However, reperfusion VF and indices of ischaemia severity (epicardial ST-segment mapping, inhomogeneity) were not modified by the drug. Sildenafil increased the QT interval, especially during ischaemia. Our conclusion is that ischaemia-induced ventricular arrhythmias are reduced by sildenafil, but this protection is less pronounced than that following cardiac pacing or exercise.