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We investigated the effect of lidocaine on the incidence of cognitive dysfunction in the early postoperative period after cardiac surgery. One-hundred-eighteen patients undergoing elective coronary artery bypass surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) were randomized to receive either lidocaine (1.5 mg/kg bolus followed by a 4 mg/min infusion during operation and 4 mg/kg in the priming solution of CPB) or placebo. A battery of nine neuropsychological tests was administered before and 9 days after surgery. A postoperative deficit in any test was defined as a decline by more than or equal to the preoperative sd of that test in all patients. Any patient showing a deficit in two or more tests was defined as having postoperative cognitive dysfunction. Eighty-eight patients completed pre- and postoperative neuropsychological tests. Plasma lidocaine concentrations (μg/mL) were 4.78 ± 0.52 (mean ± sd), 5.38 ± 0.95, 4.52 ± 0.39, 5.82 ± 0.76, and 7.10 ± 1.09 at 10 min before CPB; 10, 30, and 60 min of CPB; and at the end of operation, respectively. The proportion of patients showing postoperative cognitive dysfunction was significantly reduced in the lidocaine group compared with that in the placebo group (18.6% versus 40.0%;P = 0.028). We conclude that intraoperative administration of lidocaine decreased the occurrence of cognitive dysfunction in the early postoperative period.