Background. Isolated heart models separate cardiac characteristics from systemic characteristics with subsequent findings used in cardiac research, including responses to pharmacologic, mechanical, and electrical components. The model objective was to develop the ability to represent in situ physiologic cardiac function ex vivo. Methods. Swine hearts were chosen over rat or guinea pig models due to their notably greater anatomical and physiologic similarities to humans. An in vitro apparatus was designed to work all four chambers under simulated in situ physiologic conditions. Using standard cardiac surgical techniques, 12 porcine hearts (mean weight 331 ± 18 g) were explanted into the apparatus. Preload and afterload resistances simulated in situ input and output physiologic conditions. Hemodynamic characterizations, including cardiac output, max ± dP/dt, and heart rate, were used to determine in situ function leading to explantation (prethoracic operation, postmedial sternotomy, and postperidectomy) and during in vitro function (t = 0, 60, 120, and 240 minutes). Results. In vitro performance decayed with time, with statistical differences from base line (t = 0) function at t = 240 minutes (p > 0.05). Conclusions. An isolation and in vitro explantation protocol has been improved to aid in the study of isolated cardiac responses, and to determine cardiac hemodynamic function during open chest operation, transplantation, and in vitro reanimation with a crystalloid perfusate. The resulting model offers similar working physiologic function, with real-time imaging capabilities. The resulting model is advantageous in representing human cardiac function with regard to anatomic and physiologic functions, and can account for atrial and ventricular interactions. (C) 2000 by The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.