Despite the fact that trauma patients are not heparinized at the time of injury, most models of hemorrhagic shock involve heparinization before the initiation of hemorrhage. To determine whether preheparinization has any effects on the microvasculature of organs during or after hemorrhage, rats (with and without preheparinization) were bled to a mean arterial blood pressure (BP) of 40 mm Hg. In two groups, this pressure was maintained by withdrawing additional blood until BP could no longer be maintained at 40 mm Hg (maximal bleedout, MB). In another two groups, the BP was maintained at 40 mm Hg until 40% of the MB volume was returned in the form of lactated Ringer’s solution. The rats were then resuscitated with four times the volume of MB with lactated Ringer’s. At MB or immediately after resuscitation, colloidal carbon black was rapidly infused and the liver, kidney, and spleen were excised, fixed, and sectioned. In additional animals, blood samples for platelet counts and total body fibrinogen estimates were taken before hemorrhage and at MB or at the end of resuscitation. The results indicate that at MB, microvascular patency in the kidney and liver was significantly depressed in the nonheparinized rats but not depressed in the preheparinized rats. This protective effect of heparin is not directly attributable to its anticoagulant properties, since there were no differences in the consumption of platelets or fibrinogen between the nonheparinized and preheparinized groups. Although the microvascular patency improved with resuscitation in the nonheparinized group, the glomeruli counts and perfusion of the spleen remained significantly lower than in the preheparinized group. Thus, administration of heparin before the initiation of hemorrhage maintains microvascular patency during and after hemorrhage. This result raises serious questions about the clinical relevance of the various therapeutic agents tested experimentally for treatment of hemorrhagic shock using a preheparinized model. © 1992 by The Williams and Wilkins Co.