The effect of transfusion of PEGylated hemoglobin (PEG-Hb) was evaluated in anesthetized rats subjected to 2 hours of focal cerebral ischemia and 1 day of reperfusion. PEG-Hb was stored in the carboxy state (PEG-COHb) to reduce autooxidation and increase the shelf life. Transfusion of 10 ml/kg of PEG-COHb at 20 minutes of ischemia did not alter arterial blood pressure or increase red cell flux in the ischemic core. Plasma hemoglobin increased to only 0.6 g/dL, yet infarct volume was markedly decreased and neurological deficits were improved. We conclude that early topload transfusion of PEG-COHb protects the brain from ischemic stroke.