The effects of L-carnitine on ventricular arrhythmias were evaluated in dogs with acute myocardial ischemia and a supplement of excess free fatty acids (FFA). Acute myocardial ischemia was induced by ligation of left anterior descending coronary artery. After 80 minutes of coronary occlusion, high plasma FFA was induced by intravenous injection of heparin 200 mu/kg and Intralipid 5 ml/kg as a bolus. After additional 60 minutes, beating hearts were removed from animals and tissue levels of free carnitine, short and long chain acyl carnitine, FFA and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) were determined. L-carnitine 100 mg/kg was administered intravenously 5 minutes before coronary artery ligation. Electrocardiograms were recorded continuously by a Holter electrocardiographic recorder during the experiment and ventricular arrhythmias were quantified by an arbitrary scoring system. In ischemic and excess FFA supplemented myocardium, free carnitine and ATP decreased, whereas long chain acyl carnitine and FFA increased. And these metabolic changes tended to be reduced by L-carnitine. Pretreatment of L-carnitine also reduced the grade of ventricular arrhythmias induced both by acute myocardial ischemia and by supplemented of excess FFA. These results suggest that the administration of L-carnitine may be beneficial to prevent serious arrhythmias in ischemic heart disease, presumably by restoring the imparied FFA oxidation.