Seizures are associated with adverse outcome in infants with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. We hypothesized that early administration of the anticonvulsant phenobarbital after cerebral hypoxia ischemia could enhance the neuroprotective efficacy of delayed-onset hypothermia. We tested this hypothesis in a neonatal rodent model. Seven-d-old rats (n = 104) underwent right carotid ligation, followed by 90 min 8% O2 exposure; 15 min later, they received injections of phenobarbital (40 mg/kg) or saline. One or 3 h later, all were treated with hypothermia (30 degrees C, 3 h). Function and neuropathology were evaluated after 7 d (early outcomes) or 1 mo (late outcomes). Early outcome assessment demonstrated better sensorimotor performance and less cortical damage in phenobarbital-treated groups; there were no differences between groups in which the hypothermia delay was shortened from 3 to 1 h. Late outcome assessment confirmed sustained benefits of phenobarbital + hypothermia treatment; sensorimotor performance was better (persistent attenuation of contralateral forepaw placing deficits and absence of contralateral forepaw neglect); neuropathology scores were lower (median, phenobarbital 2 and saline 8.5, p < 0.05); and less ipsilateral cerebral hemisphere %Damage (mean +/- SD, 11 +/- 17 versus 28 +/- 22, p < 0.05). These results suggest that early posthypoxia-ischemia administration of phenobarbital may augment the neuroprotective efficacy of therapeutic hypothermia.