Cardiac surgery and some noncardiac procedures are associated with a significant risk of perioperative cardiac morbid events. Experimental data indicate that clinical concentrations of volatile general anesthetics protect the myocardium from ischemia and reperfusion injury, as shown by decreased infarct size and a more rapid recovery of contractile function on reperfusion. These anesthetics may also mediate protective effects in other organs, such as the brain and kidney. Recently, a number of reports have indicated that these experimentally observed protective effects may also have clinical implications in cardiac surgery. However, the impact of the use of volatile anesthetics on outcome measures, such as postoperative mortality and recovery in cardiac and noncardiac surgery, is yet to be determined.