The ability of MnCl2 to enhance canine myocardium and to delineate ischemic areas is demonstrated. A dose-response curve was measured using T1 weighted images in 11 dogs. MnCl2 (36, 113, 360, and 3600 micromol) was infused over a period of 3 min. Signal intensity increased linearly with MnCl2 dose. At 113 micromol ( approximately 10 micromol/kg) the steady-state increase in intensity averaged 212 +/- 34%. No significant physiologic effects due to the infused MnCl2 were detected except at the highest dose where there was a cardiac depressive effect. Ischemia was induced by occluding the left anterior descending coronary artery in 5 dogs. At an infused dose of 113 micromol, MnCl2 clearly demarcated the ischemic zone during coronary occlusion. Contrast enhancement in the ischemic zone was less than 30% compared with normal tissue (P < 0.03). In conclusion, the intracellular contrast agent MnCl2 enhances the canine heart and shows promise in detecting ischemia at doses that do not cause adverse cardiac effects.