The early histological features of indomethacin-induced jejunal injury in the rat are described in tissues preserved by perfusion-fixation with 10% formol-saline. After an oral dose of indomethacin (15 mg/kg, known to cause severe multifocal ulceration of the rat jejunum), groups of rats were anaesthetized with subsequent perfusion-fixation of the gastrointestinal tract at 1, 2, 3, 6 and 48 h after dosing. Using routine light microscopic techniques, we have observed a sequence of four distinct stages, in time, of small intestinal injury. The earliest histological features were shortening of the villi, epithelial stratification, basal lamina degeneration, eosinophil degranulation and infiltration of the epithelium prior to infiltration of the mucosa by neutrophils. We consider that these earliest changes, seen at 1, 2 and 3 h, represent a distinct histological entity termed Type 1 change or villous 'tufting'. Type 2 change includes all of the features of Type 1 change plus the subsequent infiltration of the mucosa by neutrophils at 2, 3 and 6 h. Type 3 change includes necrosis of the upper-third of the villi and was mainly seen at 3 and 6 h. Type 4 change describes extreme injury to more than one-third of the mucosa with severe, acute inflammation and perforation of the bowel wall by 48 h. Although a small number of neutrophils had appeared to infiltrate the mucosa as early as 2 h after dosing, they were only significantly increased at 3, 6 and 48 h. Possible pathogenic mechanisms involved in shortening of villi as a result of smooth muscle contraction and the role of mucosal eosinophils in NSAID-induced jejunal injury in the rat are discussed.