Background. Ischemic preconditioning is an effective means of reducing myocardial infarct size, but its ability to attenuate stunning after an episode of surgically relevant global ischemia remains elusive. Likewise, the role played by adenosine in this setting has not been established conclusively. This study was designed to address these two issues. Methods. Thirty isolated, crystalloid-perfused rabbit hearts were subjected to 60 minutes of normothermic potassium arrest and 60 minutes of reperfusion. They were divided into three equal groups. The first group had no prearrest intervention and served as a control. In the second group, ischemic preconditioning was achieved with 5 minutes of zero-flow ischemia followed by 5 minutes of buffer reperfusion before arrest. In the third group, the hearts were first infused for 5 minutes with the nucleoside transport inhibitor draflazine (10-6 mol/L), the efficacy of which was demonstrated by reversal of the normally high inosine to adenosine ratio in the coronary effluent. These hearts subsequently were given 2 additional minutes of ischemic (zero- flow) preconditioning followed by 5 minutes of reperfusion before arrest. During reperfusion, function was measured serially under isovolumic conditions. Myocardial necrosis was estimated from the release of creatine kinase after the initial 5 minutes of reflow, and the planimetrically determined extent of infarction was determined by triphenyltetrazolium chloride staining. Results. Baseline hemodynamic data were comparable among the three groups. Neither ischemic preconditioning alone nor ischemic preconditioning with draflazine-induced enhancement of endogenous adenosine levels improved postischemic recovery of function over that seen in control, untreated hearts. These results correlated with a minimal amount of infarction in the control group (on average, <10% of the left ventricle), which was not reduced further by either preconditioning regimen. Conclusions. These data support the idea that, in the absence of substantial necrosis, ischemic preconditioning does not ameliorate postischemic stunning, which leads to the question of its usefulness in clinical cardiac operations. Although, in this model, protection was not potentiated by increasing endogenous concentrations of adenosine, it remains a worthwhile goal to identify the final effectors of the signaling pathway accounting for the otherwise demonstrated cardioprotective effects of preconditioning because of the potential for these mediators to act as effective antiischemic agents.