The purpose of this study was to determine whether mild hypothermia after a moderate hypoxic-ischemic insult reduces the extent of brain damage. Hypoxia was achieved in newborn piglets (n = 24; age, 14-72 h) by abrupt reduction of the inspired oxygen concentration (FiO2) to the maximum concentration (approximately 6%) giving low amplitude (< 7.0 microV) EEG. FiO2 was temporarily increased if heart rate, blood pressure, or end expiratory partial pressure of alveolar CO2 (PAco2) were markedly reduced. This intermittently resulted in EEG amplitude greater than 7 microV, the EEG traces were therefore later examined to determine the duration of low amplitude EEG. After 45 min of hypoxia, the animals were randomized to normothermia (39 degrees C) or hypothermia (35 degrees C) for 3 h. Hypothermia was achieved by applying packs containing ice water. Neurologic assessments and EEG recordings were performed regularly until 3 d when the brains were perfusion fixed. Histologic damage in cortex/white matter, cerebellum, hippocampus, basal ganglia, and thalamus was graded by a pathologist blind to treatment allocation. We found that the severity of brain damage (by histopathologic and neurologic evaluation) was not significantly different when the piglets were normothermic after hypoxia compared with the group made hypothermic. Increased duration of low amplitude EEG and seizure activity were associated with increased damage. When controlling for duration of hypoxia and excluding seizures, piglets undergoing hypothermia had approximately 50% less severe histopathologic damage in cortex/white matter, cerebellum, and hippocampus than those kept normothermic. Thalamus and basal ganglia had no or minor damage. It was concluded that there was no general beneficial effect of postinsult hypothermia. However, when controlling for the duration of the insult and occurrence of seizures, hypothermia reduced the severity of brain damage. This indicates a significant neuroprotective effect of 3 h of mild hypothermia on moderate, but not severe, hypoxic-ischemic insults.