Postinjury inflammation has been implicated in secondary degeneration following injury to the spinal cord. The cellular inflammatory response to injury has not been described in the lateral compression injury model, although various types of compression injuries account for ∼20% of human spinal cord injuries (SCI). Here, we used forceps to induce a moderate compression injury to the thoracic spinal cord of female Sprague-Dawley rats. We evaluated innate and adaptive components of the inflammatory response at various times postinjury using immunohistochemical techniques. We show that components of innate immunity (e.g., macrophages and dendritic cells) peak between 1 and 2 weeks postinjury but persist through 42 days postinjury (dpi). CD163 and CD206 expression, associated with an anti-inflammatory, reparative phenotype, was upregulated on activated macrophages in the injury site, as were MHC class II antigens. The expression of MHC class II antigens is necessary for the initiation of adaptive immunity and was accompanied by an influx of T cells. T cells were initially restricted to gray matter at the injury epicenter but were later observed throughout the lesioned parenchyma. In summary, we demonstrate that lateral forceps compression of the spinal cord produces a neuroinflammatory response similar to that described in human spinal cord trauma and in other experimental models of spinal cord trauma, thus is an appropriate model to study secondary neurodegeneration in SCI. Anat Rec, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.