Septic encephalopathy is a complication of sepsis, and it is closely associated with the increased mortality of the sufferers. Pathophysiology of septic encephalopathy is not still completely understood. In an attempt to provide insight into the pathogenesis of septic encephalopathy, a light and electron microscopic investigation has been carried out in a rat model of intraperitoneal sepsis. Experimental fecal peritonitis was induced in Wistar rats which have been monitored for 6 It and sacrificed to harvest the samples of frontal cortex. Vital parameters and morphometric data obtained from investigation of the microvessels were then compared with the sham-operated and unoperated controls. In addition to the discernible drop in the blood pressure and in rectal temperature following initial increases, unstable but usually increased heart rate and marked respiratory failure were recorded. Estimation of the percentage of the microvessel area occupied by edema revealed the presence of significantly more perimicrovascular edema in the experimental fecal peritonitis group compared to both sham-operated and unoperated controls, while no significant difference was present between the latter two groups. Electron microscopic investigation confirmed the presence of distinctive perimicrovascular edema in the fecal peritonitis group although the endothelial cells were linked by tight junctions which appeared morphologically intact. Although it might be premature to draw any strict parallels between the septic encephalopathy in humans and the findings observed in the present model, the results may suggest that the edema observed around the microvessels would bare a role in the pathogenesis of the septic encephalopathy probably by affecting the exchange of oxygen and nutrients with carbon dioxide and waste products between the blood and brain parenchyma. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.