Nicorandil, a new KATP channel opener, is used in clinical practice for anti-anginal therapy. It exhibits vasodilator properties as does the halogenated anaesthetic isoflurane. We have examined the cardiovascular effects of increasing concentrations of isoflurane after administration of nicorandil in 10 adult beagle dogs anaesthetized with thiopental and whose lungs were ventilated mechanically. During surgery, anaesthesia was maintained with 1.0-1.5% isoflurane. A left thoracotomy was performed and the heart suspended in a pericardial cradle. Monitoring included: ECG; aortic, left ventricular, arterial, central venous and pulmonary artery pressures; cardiac output; coronary flow; and segmental length in the apical region. After surgery, isoflurane anaesthesia was set at an end-tidal concentration of 1.05% (1 MAC) and measurements obtained; these were repeated with 1.4%, 1.75%, 2.1% and 1.05% isoflurane concentrations after appropriate stabilization periods. Nicorandil (100 micrograms kg-1 bolus, 25 micrograms kg-1 min-1 infusion) was begun and a second dose-response study of isoflurane was obtained as before. Blood samples were obtained for measurement of concentrations of nicorandil. Systolic ventricular function was assessed by systolic shortening (%SS) and preload recruitable stroke work (PRSW). Increasing isoflurane concentration produced decreases in heart rate, systolic pressure, cardiac output, %SS and PRSW. Nicorandil produced a slight decrease in systolic arterial pressure (10 and 15 mm Hg after 1.05% and 2.05% isoflurane) and a slight increase in heart rate (10 and 5 beat min-1 after 1.05% and 2.05% isoflurane). Preload, assessed by end-diastolic length, decreased. Coronary blood flow increased with infusion of nicorandil. Left ventricular function was not affected by infusion of nicorandil. We conclude that nicorandil has only minor vaso/venodilatory effects in the presence of isoflurane. Ventricular function was not altered by infusion of nicorandil.