Five patients with severe symptomatic carotid and coronary artery disease were treated with staged carotid endarterectomy and coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) under the protection of an intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) over a 56-month period. All patients presented with unstable angina and multiple ipsilateral transient ischemic attacks. Two of the four patients had four previous myocardial infarctions. Arteriography demonstrated three-vessel coronary artery disease and 80% to 95% stenosis of the ipsilateral internal carotid artery in all patients. An IABP was placed prior to uneventful carotid endarterectomy performed with vein patch angioplasty (three patients) or primary closure (two patients) under general anesthesia. All five patients had remarkably stable blood pressure and cardiac outputs while on the IABP. Twenty-four hours after carotid endarterectomy the patients underwent uneventful CABG of three or more vessels. No complications occurred with either surgical procedure. One patient required femoral embolectomy and repair of a small false femoral aneurysm following removal of the IABP. All patients were discharged home 7 to 13 days after CABG. This initial report suggests that IABP can be used safely in staged operations for carefully selected patients with unstable angina and severe symptomatic carotid artery disease.