Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with vascular disorders possibly due to systemic inflammation. To determine whether repeated episodes of OSA in a rat model lead to endothelial cell activation and systemic leukocyte recruitment in the microcirculation. Three experimental groups (apnea, sham and naive) were studied. The apnea group was instrumented and subjected to repeated obstruction for 3h (rate 60/h, length 5s) using a special device. The sham group was only instrumented and the naive group was used as a control. Leukocyte-endothelial cell interactions (intravital microscopy) and expression of P-selectin (immunohistochemistry) were determined in colonic venules. The apnea group induced a significant increase in the flux of leukocytes rolling, number of rolling leukocytes and number of adherent leukocytes when compared with the sham or naive groups. P-selectin was up-regulated only in the apnea group. This experimental model of recurrent obstruction demonstrates rapid endothelial cell activation, suggesting the onset of an inflammatory response.