Hepatic ischemia followed by reflow results in a myriad of metabolic and circulatory derangements that may eventually result in liver failure and death. In the present experiments we have used the technique of intravital fluorescence microscopy with fluoroscein isothiocyanate conjugated to bovine serum albumin as the intravascular fluorochrome to study the effects of ischemia and reperfusion on the hepatic microcirculation in vivo. Total hepatic ischemia was produced for 90 min to the left and median lobes of pentobarbital-anesthetized rats. After ischemia, reflow was allowed for 2 h. Three groups were studied: sham-ischemia controls and rats treated with either 1 ml saline or 12.5 mumol ATP-MgCl2 in 1-ml volume at the beginning of reflow. Although control rats exhibited stable microcirculation throughout the experiment, in saline-treated rats the number of perfused centrilobular areas and perfused sinusoids per unit area on the surface of the liver was decreased to approximately 50 and 40% of sham-ischemia controls, respectively. However, in rats treated with ATP-MgCl2 the density of perfused centrilobular areas and perfused sinusoids was 86 and 80% of sham-ischemia controls, respectively. From these results we conclude that intravital fluorescence microscopy is a potentially valuable method for the study of the hepatic microcirculation in vivo. Moreover, the results with ATP-MgCl2 treatment indicate that its effect on the microcirculation is a major factor in its beneficial effects on hepatic function after ischemia and reflow.