Hypoxia/reoxygenation (H/R)-induced intestinal injury plays a significant role in the development of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). We experimentally explored the effect of pentoxifylline (PTX) on an NEC model. Twenty-one newborn rabbits were divided into three groups: group 1 ( control), group 2 (H/R) and group 3 (H/R + PTX). Five minutes of reoxygenation following 5 min of hypoxia was performed three times a day during 3 days. Before each H/R procedure in the H/R + PTX group, the rabbits were treated with PTX 25 mg/kg intraperitoneally. Animals were sacrificed on the third day and ileum samples were taken for histopathological examination and biochemical enzyme studies [superoxide dismutase ( SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione reductase (GR), and glutathione S-transferase (GST)]. There was a significant difference in the grade and number of the intestinal lesions between controls and the H/R and H/R + PTX groups (p < 0.001), but no significant difference was found between the H/R and the H/R + PTX groups ( p 1 0.05). Intestinal SOD, GR and GST activities in the H/R and H/R + PTX groups were significantly higher than in the control group (p < 0.05); however, there was no significant difference between the H/R and H/R + PTX groups (p > 0.05). Significantly reduced GPx activity was found in the H/R and H/R + PTX groups compared with the controls (p < 0.05). No significant difference in GPx activity existed between the H/R group and the H/R + PTX group (p > 0.05). Ischemia/reperfusion injury was responsible for mediating hypoxia-induced intestinal necrosis in NEC and PTX pretreatment did not have a protective effect on NEC. Copyright (C) 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel.