There is evidence demonstrating the protective effect of cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors against ischemic injury in certain tissues. In this study, sildenafil, a potent inhibitor of PDE5, was tested for its beneficial effects in the prevention of disrupted ileal contractility and damage to tissue caused by intestinal ischemia-reperfusion in rats. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into four groups: sham-operated; sham-operated with sildenafil pretreatment; ischemia-reperfusion with vehicle pretreatment; and ischemia-reperfusion with sildenafil pretreatment. The superior mesenteric artery was occluded for 45 min to induce ischemia. The clamp was then removed for a 60 min period of reperfusion. Sildenafil (1 mg/kg, i.v.) or saline was administered prior to the surgical procedure in the ischemia-reperfusion and sham-operated groups. Isometric contractions of the ileal segments in response to acetylcholine or electrical field stimulation (120 V, 2 ms pulse for 5 s, 1-20 Hz) were recorded. Additionally, levels of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances and myeloperoxidase activity were measured in addition to a histopathological examination of the ileal tissue. The contractions induced by both acetylcholine and electrical field stimulations were markedly inhibited after ischemia-reperfusion. Sildenafil pretreatment (1 mg/kg, i.v.) abolished the inhibition of responses to acetylcholine. The increased levels of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances and myeloperoxidase activity caused by ischemia-reperfusion were reversed to control levels with sildenafil pretreatment. Intestinal ischemia-reperfusion caused severe ischemic injury in rat ileum, which was prevented by sildenafil. These results suggest that sildenafil pretreatment has a protective effect against ileal dysfunction and damage induced by intestinal ischemia-reperfusion in the rat. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.