Hyperkalemic solutions that are used as cardioplegic agents, while effective in inducing electromechanical arrest, are only partially cardioprotective, and ventricular dysfunction has been observed. The underlying pathophysiology of cardioplegia-associated ventricular dysfunction is complex and not fully understood, but it could be related, in part, to intracellular Ca2+ loading induced by high K+ concentrations present in cardioplegic solutions. Yet no effective cytoprotective means against possible intracellular Ca2+ loading, under these conditions, has been described. Recently, potassium channel openers, which open adenosine triphosphate-sensitive K+ channels, have been reported to possess cardioprotective properties under global ischemic conditions. However, it is not known whether these novel agents could prevent intracellular Ca2+ loading that could occur during cardioplegia. Intracellular Ca2+ was monitored in ventricular myocytes, loaded with the Ca(2+)-sensitive fluorescent probe Fluo-3AM, using epifluorescent digital imaging and laser confocal microscopy. Exposure of a myocyte to a 16 mmol/L concentration of K+, a concentration of K+ commonly used in cardioplegic solutions, induced a nonhomogeneous increase in intracellular Ca2+. Potassium channel opening drugs, such as aprikalim or nicorandil, effectively prevented these solutions from increasing intracellular Ca2+. The preventive effect of potassium channel opening drugs was antagonized by glyburide, a selective blocker of adenosine triphosphate-sensitive K+ channels. This study demonstrates, at the single cardiac cell level, that solutions containing a 16 mmol/L concentration of K+ promote intracellular Ca2+ loading, which can be prevented by potassium channel opening drugs. Therefore, potassium channel opening drugs should be considered to prevent intracellular Ca2+ loading associated with the use of cardioplegic solutions.