There is no doubt that a group of patients at increased risk of peri-operative cardiac morbidity exists and must be managed with the emphasis on the prevention of myocardial ischaemia. It is also clear that a potentially far larger group are at risk of failing to meet the increased cardiovascular and metabolic demands of surgery and therefore suffering the consequences of a relative hypoperfusion injury. Pre-operative assessment must address both groups and management regimens sought to provide optimal outcome for both. At present there is no consistent strategy for their identification, assessment or management of the high risk surgical population despite the fact that they probably consume a disproportionate share of hospital resources. The first and most important step is the recognition that this high risk group exists. Only then can this population be given similar consideration to those currently thought to be at risk of ischaemia.