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Volatile anesthetics exert a protective role in myocardial ischemia. An increase in sympathetic tone might exert deleterious effects on the ischemic myocardium. The use of the volatile anesthetic desflurane in myocardial ischemia is controversial because of its sympathetic activation. We compared propofol and desflurane on myocardial stunning in chronically instrumented dogs. Mongrel dogs (n = 8) were chronically instrumented for measurement of heart rate, left atrial, aortic, and left ventricular pressure, rate of rise of left ventricular pressure, and myocardial wall-thickening fraction (WTF). An occluder around the left anterior descending artery (LAD) allowed the induction of reversible LAD-ischemia. Two experiments were performed in a cross-over fashion on separate days: 1) Induction of 10 min of LAD-ischemia during desflurane anesthesia and 2) Induction of 10 min of LAD-ischemia during propofol anesthesia. Both anesthetics were discontinued immediately after completion of ischemia. WTF was measured at predetermined time points until complete recovery from ischemic dysfunction occurred. Both anesthetics caused a significant decrease of WTF in the LAD-perfused myocardium. LAD-ischemia led to a further significant decrease of LAD-WTF in both groups. During the first 3 h of reperfusion, WTF was significantly larger in the desflurane group. Mean arterial pressure and heart rate were greater during ischemia and the first 10 min of reperfusion in the desflurane group compared with the propofol group. Recovery from myocardial stunning in dogs was faster when desflurane was used at the time of ischemia as compared with propofol anesthesia. The mechanism for this difference is unclear, but sympathetic activation by desflurane was not a limiting factor for ischemic tolerance in chronically instrumented dogs.The use of the volatile anesthetic desflurane during cardiac ischemia is controversial because of its effect of sympathetic activation. In chronically instrumented dogs, recovery from myocardial stunning was faster when desflurane was used for anesthesia during ischemia compared with propofol.