Previous studies demonstrating protective effects of allopurinol in intestinal ischemia have evaluated intravenous allopurinol (presently unavailable for human use) or enteral allopurinol at supranormal doses and, therefore, have questionable clinical relevance. To address this problem, we evaluated the protective effects of clinically used doses of enteral allopurinol in rats with intestinal ischemia. Forty male Sprague-Dawley rats (weighing 300 to 400 g) received enteral allopurinol (10 mg/kg) or water daily for 1 week. Rats were then subjected to superior mesenteric artery occlusion with interruption of collateral flow for 20 minutes to produce ischemic injury to the intestine. Segmental small bowel resections were performed in 10 control rats and 10 allopurinol-treated rats before and after reperfusion to identify histopathologic evidence of reperfusion injury. Mucosal injury was quantitated using a grading scale of 0 to 5 (5 being most severe). The remaining 20 rats (10 in each group) were observed for mortality (death within 7 days) after reperfusion. Mucosal injury after reperfusion was graded at 4.4 +/- 0.20 in controls versus 2.3 +/- 0.23 in the treated group (P less than .001). In addition, there was a significant increase in mucosal damage in the control group when postreperfusion specimens were compared with specimens taken before reperfusion (2.8 +/- 0.19 before and 4.4 +/- 0.20 after reperfusion, P less than .001). Injury score for the allopurinol-treated group did not significantly increase after reperfusion. Survival was 50% in the water-fed control group compared with 100% survival in allopurinol-treated rats (P = .016). We conclude that enteral allopurinol in the presently available form and dose is effective in reducing mesenteric reperfusion injury.