Postischemic myocardium possesses considerable contractile and metabolic reserves, but their mobilization could result in increased cell death. We tested the hypothesis that β-adrenergic stimulation of reperfused myocardium would increase segment work more than O2 consumption, thereby improving efficiency without increased cell death. In 16 open-chest anesthetized dogs, the left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) was ligated for 2 h; during the reperfusion period, isoproterenol (ISO; 0.1 μg/kg/min, i.v.) was administered to nine of the animals. Regional myocardial segment length and force were measured in the anterior (LAD) and posterior circumflex coronary artery (CFX) regions of the left ventricular myocardium. Work was calculated as the integrated products of force and shortening for each region. Regional myocardial O2 consumption was obtained from LAD flow and arterial and local venous O2 saturations. Infarct size (tetrazolium) was measured in the treated and untreated hearts at the end of the experiment. In untreated hearts, the first derivative of left ventricular pressure, cardiac output, and external work were significantly depressed during reperfusion; ISO restored all values to preocclusion levels. Regional myocardial work in both LAD and CFX regions was significantly increased by ISO (from 564 ± 207 to 1,635 ± 543 g/mm/min in LAD, and from 753 ± 90 to 1,426 ± 245 g/mm/min in CFX). Efficiency (work/oxygen consumption) of the reperfused region was similarly increased. LAD flow was significantly increased by ISO, and O2 extraction was unchanged. Infarct size was 28.2 ± 4.7% in untreated hearts and 29.0 ± 3.5% in ISO hearts. Thus isoproterenol stimulation significantly improved both regional and global function without subsequent evidence of increased cell death.