There is clinical evidence that myocardial stunning is a frequent sequela of surgical global ischemia, despite our modern techniques of myocardial protection. The ubiquitous usage of hyperkalemic depolarizing solutions in all forms of cardioplegia may be partly responsible for this phenomenon because of the known ongoing metabolic requirements and damaging transmembrane ionic fluxes that occur at depolarized membrane potentials. Cardiac arrest at hyperpolarized potentials, the natural resting state of the heart, may avoid the shortcomings of depolarized arrest and provide an alternative means of myocardial protection. To test this hypothesis, a potassium channel opener, aprikalim, was used to induce hyperpolarized arrest in an isolated rabbit heart model. Aprikalim was able to produce sustained and reproducible electromechanical arrest that was reversible by reperfusion. When compared with depolarized hyperkalemic arrest, hyperpolarized arrest afforded better protection after short 20-minute periods of global ischemia and resulted in less myocardial stunning. Moreover, aprikalim was able to significantly prolong the time to ischemic contracture and improve functional recovery after the onset of ischemic contracture when compared with either traditional hyperkalemic cardioplegia or no cardioplegia at all. There was a dose dependence to the protective effect of aprikalim. Preliminary studies in the intact porcine cardiopulmonary bypass model also have revealed that hyperpolarized arrest can effectively protect the heart during surgical global ischemia.