We have studied the fatigue rates of hydraulic pouches constructed in the form of a multilayered conical spiral using the latissimus dorsi muscle of 17 beagles. The roles that electrical muscle conditioning and early interruption of collateral blood supply have in the prevention of pouch fatigue were evaluated. The length of time that a pouch could generate flow in a hydraulic test system was measured; afterload was set at 80 mm Hg and preload 24 mm Hg. Pouches (N = 3) fashioned from muscles subject to neither electrical conditioning nor a vascular delay generated an initial flow of 990 +/- 346 ml/min, but could sustain flow for only 2.3, 3.8 and 3.6 minutes. Pouches (N = 5) constructed with electrically unconditioned muscles after a vascular delay (median 3 weeks) demonstrated a variable improvement in fatigue rates (initial flow 826 +/- 265 ml/min; time to no forward flow, 2.5, 7.5, 7.5, 10, and 200 minutes). Four of six pouches that received the benefit of long-term electrical muscle conditioning and a vascular delay (N = 6) were able to generate flow for a 4 hour period, at which time the experiment was terminated (initial flow 478 +/- 204 ml/min; final flow 195 +/- 157 ml/min). After the 4 hour fatigue test was completed, one electrically conditioned pouch was placed in series with the heart and served as a counterpulsator. The initial volume of blood pumped by the muscle pouch was 262 ml/min or 13.8% of cardiac output. After the pouch had contracted at a rate of approximately 45 beats/min for 1 hour, the volume of blood pumped was 178 ml/min, or 11% of cardiac output. In three other animals a pouch was fashioned and then left in situ for a 1 to 3 week period before hydraulic testing. These pouches generated significant initial flows (390 +/- 60 ml/min), which demonstrates the feasibility of further study of permanent pouches. These results suggest that permanent electrical muscle conditioning and perhaps a vascular collateral delay might permit an auxiliary skeletal muscle-powered ventricle to assume a portion of left ventricular function.