Our aim was to determine whether the use of room air or 100% oxygen has different effects on the peripheral circulation during resuscitation from severe hypoxemia. Twenty-four piglets, 2-to 5-days old, were anesthetized with pentobarbital and randomized to control (n = 5, surgery only) or hypoxemia. Hypoxemia (FiO2 = 0.08) was continued until base excess reached - 20 mml/L. Resuscitation was then performed with 21% (n = 10) or 100% O2 (n = 9) for 25 min followed by 21% O2 in both groups. Regional blood flow was measured with radioactive microspheres. Both hypoxic groups showed marked hyperemia during resuscitation in cardiac and skeletal muscle, a moderate hyperemia in intestine and pancreas while kidneys, liver, spleen and skin showed no hyperemic response. There were no significant differences between the two treatment groups in blood flow to any organ. Arterial oxygen content was significantly higher in the 100% O2 group than in the 21% O2 at 5 and 20 min after onset of resuscitation (11.6 +/- 0.7 and 11.2 +/- 0.6 vs 8.6 +/- 0.3 and 8.7 +/- 0.3 ml/100 ml, p < 0.01). Oxygen delivery was, however, significantly higher in the 100% O2 group than in the 21% O2 group only to the intestine and pancreas at 5 min of resuscitation. We conclude that resuscitation with 21% or 100% oxygen produces similar changes in peripheral blood flow in this porcine model of neonatal hypoxemia.