Ischaemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) is of obvious relevance in situations where there is an interruption of blood supply to the gut, as in vascular surgery, or in the construction of free intestinal grafts. It is now appreciated that IRI also underlies the guy dysfunction that occurs in early shock, sepsis, and trauma. The events that occur during IRI are complex. However, recent advances in cellular biology have started to unravel these underlying processes. The aim of this review is to provide an outline of current knowledge on the mechanisms and consequences of IRI. Initially, IRI appears to be mediated by reactive oxygen metabolites and, at a later stage, by the priming and activation of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN). Ischaemia-reperfusion injury can diminish the barrier function of the gut, and can promote an increase in the leakage of molecules (intestinal permeability) or the passage of microbes across the wall of the bowel (bacterial translocation). Ischaemia-reperfusion injury to the gut can result in the generation of molecules that may also harm distant tissues.