To evaluate the role of ischaemia in the genesis of new septal wall motion abnormalities after coronary artery bypass surgery 45 patients were studied by cross sectional echocardiography before and 8-10 days after operation. Regional left ventricular wall motion was classified as normal, hypokinetic, akinetic, or dyskinetic. Septal wall motion abnormalities were correlated with electrocardiographic Q wave changes and serial serum MB creatine kinase measured before and 4, 7, 21, 48, and 72 hours after operation. Of the 14 patients who developed new septal wall motion abnormalities after operation two developed septal akinesis (both had perioperative infarction) and one new dyskinesis in the previously akinetic septal segment. Of the 11 patients with new septal hypokinesis, eight had normal serial creatine kinase MB values, two had raised values peaking four and seven hours after operation, with a return to normal values at 21 hours indicating transient ischaemia, and one had enzymatic criteria for perioperative infarction. Most new echocardiographic septal wall motion abnormalities after coronary artery bypass grafting are not caused by transient ischaemia, perioperative infarction, or generalised cell necrosis.