Permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) causes neurodegeneration and a robust activation of glial cells primarily in sensorimotor brain regions of rats. It has been shown that hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) increases oxygen supply to ischaemic areas and reduces neuronal cell loss. The effects of HBO treatment on microgliosis and astrogliosis in permanent cerebral ischaemia have not been addressed so far, but might be critical for neurodegeneration and neuroprotection, respectively. Therefore, we used spontaneously hypertensive rats with permanent MCAO to investigate the time window to start HBO and to compare the effects of different HBO treatment frequencies on infarct volume and on differences with regard to microgliosis and astrogliosis. Seven days after MCAO the infarct volume was calculated from Nissl-stained brain sections by image analysis. HBO significantly decreased the infarct volume when used as early as 15, 90 or 180 min post-MCAO by 24%, 16% and 13%, respectively, in the single-treatment group. Repetitive HBO treatment (first HBO session 90 min after MCAO) was not effective. Microglial cells and astrocytes were detected by cytochemical fluorescent labelling and confocal laser scanning microscopy. In the single-treatment group we observed significantly higher astrocyte immunoreactivity but decreased microglial density in the peri-infarct region. These effects of HBO treatment on glial cells were not present in rats where HBO did not reduce the infarct volume (360 min after MCAO). Our data indicate that HBO-induced suppression of microgliosis and aggravated response of astrocytes might contribute to the reported beneficial effects of early HBO treatment in cerebral ischaemia.