Retroperfusion of the superficial coronary venous system was studied in 44 canine fibrillating in vivo, normothermic preparations, with exclusion of the systemic circulation using cardiopulmonary bypass techniques in order to assess its value as a method of myocardial revascularization. Perfusion of either the isolated aortic arch via a brachiocephalic cannula or of the coronary sinus through the free end of a vein anastomosed to the atrial rim of the sinus was performed for 1 h at 100 cm3/min in groups II-IV following 30 min of anoxia. Oxygen uptake, vascular resistance, venous outflow and venous enzyme levels (CPK, GDH) were studied. Group I controls (antegrade perfusion, no anoxia) showed continued aerobic metabolism in contrast to group II (antegrade perfusion) and III (retrograde perfusion) which displayed negative lactate balance. Oxygen consumption was greater in group III than II (p less than 0.01) with a higher oxygen extraction in III (p less than 0.005). Group IV, which was given intravenously 30 mg/kg methylprednisolone prior to anoxia and then retroperfused, showed continued aerobic metabolism with low GDH venous levels and adequate oxygen consumption. Three dogs were then subjected to aortoatrial rim coronary sinus vein grafts with ligation of the left common coronary artery at its bifurcation with distal left circumflex and anterior descending artery-internal mammary vein anastomoses for venous drainage. The right coronary artery was left intact. Arterial inflow into the coronary sinus was associated with a left ventricular pressure of 70-80 mm Hg for up to 1.5 h while regular sinus rhythm was maintained. We conclude that retroperfusion of the coronary sinus represents a surgically feasible technique for providing oxygen delivery to the ischemic myocardium.