The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of treatment with the synthetic glucocorticoid, methylprednisolone, on the microvasulature and metabolism of the traumatized spinal cord. Spinal cords of cats were compressed with a 170-gm weight for 5 minutes and were treated with either high-dose methylprednisolone (HDMP, 15 mg/kg/24 hrs) or megadose methylprednisolone (MDMP,60 mg/kg/24 hrs). Animals were sacrificed at 2, 8, or 24 hours following injury. Treatment with HDMP resulted in substantial preservation of injured spinal cord microvascular perfusion at 8 hours as compared with injured untreated cats. Compression trauma caused a partial derangement of energy metabolism and a shift toward anaerobic glycolysis in both treated and untreated groups for the entire 24-hour postinjury period. Tissue levels of adenosine triphosphate, phosphocreatine, and total adenylates in the HDMP-treated cats sacrificed at 8 hours after trauma were significantly elevated over untreated controls, but those in the 2- and 24-hour groups were not. Concentration of energy intermediates in MDMP-treated cat were either equal to or below those of injured untreated animals al all three postinjury time period. The postinjury metabolite pattern and concentrations seen in this study possibly result from differing levels of blood flow and neuronal activity in the injured untreated, HDMP-, and MDMP-treated spinal cords. Better tissue perfusion in the HDMP-treated cats might be expected to result in an improved tissue energy state in these animals. However, intensive high-dose glucocorticoid treatment has been demonstrated to augment spinal cord monosynaptic and polysynaptic reflex transmission and primary afferent excitability. Furthermore, acute single intravenous dose studies have shown this direct neuronal action to be dose-related. Thus, additional high-energy phosphate molecules that may be reformed as a result of HDMP treatment were perhaps used as the energy source for any increased neuronal activity caused by steroid administration. The beneficial effects of glucocorticoid treatment in experimental spinal cord trauma might derive from preserved cellular structural integrity. This could result in increased levels of neuronal activity, energy utilization, and production in treated as compared with untreated tissue.