Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopic imaging is emerging as a unique tool for intra-operative assessment of myocardial oxygenation, but quantitative interpretation of the images is not straightforward. One confounding factor specific to muscle tissue (both skeletal and cardiac) is that the visible/NIR absorbance spectrum of myoglobin (Mb), an intracellular O(2) storage protein, is virtually identical to that of hemoglobin (Hb). As a consequence, the relative contributions of Mb and Hb to the NIR spectra measured in vivo for blood perfused muscle tissue cannot be determined from the measured spectra alone. To estimate the relative contributions of Mb and Hb to NIR spectra and spectroscopic images, isolated pig hearts were perfused first with a Hb-free blood substitute (Krebs-Henseleit buffer; KHB) and then with a 50/50 KHB/blood mixture, with spectroscopic images acquired at each step. Tissue Mb levels were estimated directly from the measurements during KHB perfusion, and total (Mb+Hb) levels were estimated from the images acquired during 50/50 blood/KHB perfusion. Myoglobin accounted for 63 +/- 11% of the total heme content during perfusion with the 50/50 mixture (implying that Mb would contribute 46% of the combined (Mb+Hb) NIR profile during whole blood perfusion), confirming that Mb contributes substantially to near-infrared absorbance spectra of blood perfused cardiac tissue.