Significant fibrosis and contracture often cause complications of pericardial and Dacron grafts within the heart. Both continue to be utilized because more suitable materials are unavailable. Newer prosthetic materials and the administration of drugs that might minimize intracardiac fibrosis and contracture after implantation were studied. Measured patches of three prosthetic materials were implanted into the right atrium of 18 dogs: 6 with expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE or Gore-Tex--W. L. Gore & Associates, Elkton, Md.), 6 with glutaraldehyde-preserved bovine pericardium, and 6 with Dacron patches. The animals were sacrificed after 8 weeks and gross and microscopic pathologic examinations were performed. The patch materials did not intrinsically shrink but all demonstrated marked distortion from the growth of surrounding scar tissue. In a fourth group of eight dogs with intraatrial Dacron patches, four were treated for 8 weeks with oral 3-aminopropionitrile fumarate, and four were not treated. A blinded observed evaluated the adhesions on a scale of 0 = no adhesions or patch distortion, to 4 = dense adhesions with marked distortion of the patches. The untreated dogs had dense adhesions of the lung and pericardium and the patches were encased in scar tissue with marked distortion. The average score was 3.5. The treated dogs had only minimal pleural adhesions and only a thin neointimal covering of the patch with virtually no distortion. The average score was 1.0 (P = 0.0032). The tensile strength of the healed atriotomies was evaluated with stress testing. The intact atrial wall ruptured at a force of 2.60 +/- 0.37 kg/m/sec2, the untreated atriotomy wound at 2.38 +/- 0.18 kg/m/sec2, and the treated atriotomy wound at 2.60 +/- 0.17 kg/m/sec2. There was no statistically significant difference among these groups. No other side effects of the 3-aminopropionitrile fumarate were noted, with only a single superficial wound infection caused by early postoperative trauma. Pharmacologic inhibition of scar formation minimized distortion and contracture of intracardiac prosthetic patches and decreased adhesions. Though further experimental evaluations are necessary, prolonged low-dose oral administration of beta-aminoproprionitrile (BAPN) may be beneficial in preventing complications of prosthetic implants and reoperative cardiac surgery in children.