Embolization of atheroma from the ascending aorta is a principal cause of stroke after cardiac operations. We have previously shown that intraoperative ultrasonographic scanning of the aorta rapidly, safely, and accurately identifies atheromatous disease in the ascending aorta. Intraoperative ultrasonography of the ascending aorta was performed in 500 of a consecutive series of 540 patients 50 years of age or older (mean 68 years) who underwent a variety of cardiac operations. Eighty-nine percent required bypass grafting. Sixty-eight patients (13.6% of the total) with a mean age of 72 years (range 55 to 85 years) had significant atheromatous disease in the ascending aorta and were considered to be at increased risk for embolization. Palpation identified the atheromatous disease in only 26 (38%) of these patients and underestimated its severity. A total of 168 modifications in the standard techniques for cannulation and clamping of the aorta were implemented in the 68 patients (mean 2.5 per patient) and included alterations in the sites of aortic cannulation (50 patients), aortic clamping (54 patients), attachment of the vein grafts (35 patients), and cannulation for infusion of cardioplegic solution (29 patients). Ten patients with severe diffuse atheromatous disease underwent graft replacement of the ascending aorta with hypothermic circulatory arrest without aortic clamping. Fourteen patients with symptoms or with high-grade carotid artery occlusive disease were treated by concomitant carotid endarterectomy. Thirty-day mortality for the entire group was 3.4% (17 patients). Permanent neurologic deficits occurred in five (1.0%) of the patients in the entire group but in none of the 68 patients with significant atheromatous disease in whom modifications in technique were used. One patient in the latter group had a reversible ischemic neurologic deficit. Modification of standard cannulation and clamping techniques based on ultrasonography may reduce the frequency of stroke related to atheromatous embolization.