The effect of the anabolic steroid oxandrolone on the healing rate of a standardized full thickness linear wound on the back of the rat was studied. Oxandrolone was given orally by gavage in peanut oil at a dose of 0.1 mg/kg/day. A placebo powder in peanut oil was given at the same dose to a control group. Parameters monitored were time to complete wound closure, wound hydroxyproline content and tensile strength, as well as histology. We found that wounds closed completely in 12+/-3 days with oxandrolone, compared to 18+/-3 days for a placebo, a statistically significant difference. The rate of body weight gain was identical in both groups. Hydroxyproline content of the healed incision site was 23+/-4 mg/g tissue vs. 17+/-3 mg/g tissue, while the tensile strength increased to 185+/-13 g/mm2 vs. 102+/-18 g/mm2 in the oxandrolone and placebo groups, respectively. Both parameters were significantly increased with the anabolic steroid. Histologic examination showed a wound that contained more mature and densely packed collagen and was also hypercellular with oxandrolone treatment. We conclude that the anabolic steroid oxandrolone significantly enhanced wound healing unrelated to any generalized increase in protein mass as would be reflected in body weight.