Recently we have developed new sustained release system of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) using gelatin hydrogel as a carrier. Using this system, we examined the effect of topical sustained release of bFGF on angiogenesis and tissue blood perfusion in a rabbit model of hind limb ischemia. Thirty-two rabbits underwent excision of right femoral artery under general anesthesia. Two weeks later the rabbits were randomized into four groups (n = 8 each): no treatment, intramuscular injection of gelatin hydrogel alone, and intramuscular injection of gelatin hydrogel incorporating 30 microg and 100 microg of bFGF. Four weeks after each treatment, selective angiography, tissue blood flowmetry using laser Doppler perfusion imaging, and histological examination of thigh muscle were performed. In groups treated with bFGF incorporating gelatin hydrogel, tissue blood flow, number of arterioles, and vascular density were significantly increased in a dose-dependent manner 4 weeks after the treatment. Serum concentrations of bFGF and vascular endothelial growth factor were not elevated 4 weeks after the treatment. In conclusion, sustained release of bFGF using gelatin hydrogel augmented angiogenesis and improved tissue blood flow after excision of the femoral artery.