To determine the role of inhibition of complement activation in the contractile function of skeletal muscle ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury, the rat extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles underwent 3 h ischemia and received human C1-esterase inhibitor (C1-INH, 100 IU/kg), a synthetic C1q A chain peptide with a similar inhibitory effect on activated C1 (peptide, 5 mg/kg), or human serum albumin control. Results showed a significant overall increase in tetanic contractile forces of the reperfused EDL in both C1-INH and peptide groups compared to controls. Maximum improvement occurred with peptide treatment at 120-Hz stimulation, with an increase in force from 38 ± 4% of normal in controls to 52 ± 4% in peptide-treated rats. There were no significant differences between C1-INH and peptide groups. Plasma C3 and C4 activities were significantly increased in both treated groups, suggesting inhibition of complement activation. Our results suggest that complement activation is involved in I/R injury, and inhibition of complement activation may therefore represent a potential therapeutic approach to reducing or preventing I/R injury. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc. MICROSURGERY 23:561–567 2003