A prospective study of hypertension first appearing during and after saphenous vein bypass coronary surgery was performed in 28 patients to examine the incidence, hemodynamics and mechanism of this problem. In 15 patients (54 percent) new hypertension developed (mean arterial pressure greater than 107 mm Hg), characterized by increased peripheral vascular resistance and unchanged cardiac output within 1 hour after surgery. These 15 patients had a longer history of angina of greater severity, but also had relatively well preserved ventricular myocardium. Because plasma renin activity was depressed in patients in the hypertensive group, activation of the renin-angiotensin system was not important in the pathogenesis of this postoperative hypertension. The expected decrease in total peripheral resistance at the onset of cardiopulmonary bypass was observed in all patients, but later during bypass the peripheral resistance increased in all patients in association with a rise in plasma epinephrine levels. Patients who had hypertension postoperatively had a greater increase in arterial pressure and total peripheral resistance during cardiopulmonary bypass than did those with normal postoperative blood pressure. An elevation in plasma epinephrine and norepinephrine concentration, suggesting enhanced sympathoadrenal responsiveness to the challenge of cardiopulmonary bypass, was characteristic of the hypertensive group. This evidence of enhanced sympathetic activity during surgery may be a useful predictor of the development of postoperative hypertension. © 1980, All rights reserved.