Recently published guidelines suggest that, in view of cost concerns, low-osmolal contrast should be selectively used in patients at increased risk of experiencing a contrast-related complication during cardiac angiography. The suggested criteria include the presence of left main coronary disease. However, the presence of left main disease is not usually known prior to angiography. Contrast-related complications of cardiac angiography were therefore analyzed in a group of 111 clinically stable patients found to have left main coronary stenosis, to determine if use of low-osmolality contrast had any beneficial effect when compared to standard contrast. Data were gathered prospectively as part of a randomized controlled trial, and the subgroup of patients with left main disease was analyzed retrospectively. Complications were divided into minor, intermediate, and major categories. In the 58 patients who received high-osmolar contrast, there were 4 contrast-related minor reactions, 8 intermediate events requiring treatment, and 1 major adverse event. Among the 53 patients who received low-osmolar contrast, there were no minor reactions, 7 intermediate events requiring treatment, and no major adverse events. The only difference of borderline significance was in the incidence of minor reactions requiring no treatment (P = 0.05). Although small and therefore not definitive, this study suggests that 1) universal use of low-osmolar contrast agents would not be expected to eliminate the risk of contrast-related reactions to cardiac angiography; 2) the well-documented clinical differences between high- and low-osmolar contrast primarily involve mild reactions; and 3) standard high-osmolar contrast is reasonably safe in clinically stable patients with left main coronary stenosis. The results therefore are consistent with the notion that selective use of low-osmolar contrast only in unstable patients is safe and appropriate.