Pre- and post-operative administration of magnesium has beneficial effects on post-operative ischaemia and reperfusion arrhythmias, but few studies have examined whether intra-operatively administered magnesium can prevent the effects of intra-operative arrhythmias. The aim of this randomized, double-blind study was to compare the effects of intra-operative magnesium or placebo on intra-operative arrhythmias in patients undergoing coronary bypass grafting. Patients received a flush infusion of magnesium or placebo into the aortic root before cross-clamp removal. The results showed that rate of spontaneous resumption of a cardiac rhythm was significantly higher, and number of shocks for defibrillation, energy requirement for defibrillation and rate of intra-operative ventricular tachyarrhythmias were significantly lower in the magnesium group, compared with the placebo group. The differences in need for temporary pacing, and in serum magnesium levels, were not significant. Intra-operative administration of magnesium has beneficial effects on the outcome of surgery. Larger, multicentre clinical investigations should now be undertaken.