Intestinal stasis followed by mucosal barrier breakdown and the generation of locally produced cytokines has been proposed as the cause of systemic infection and multiple organ failure following hemorrhagic shock. The aim of this study was to investigate the underlying mechanisms of impaired intestinal muscle function leading to ileus following hemorrhagic shock. Rats were subjected to severe hemorrhagic shock (mean arterial pressure 40 mmHg) followed by resuscitation and were killed early at 4 h or late at 24 h. Other groups consisted of control and sham animals. Intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM-1) mRNA levels were significantly elevated in the muscularis but not in the mucosa using the semiquantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). There was a marked infiltration of neutrophils into the muscularis early and late after shock. Furthermore, smooth muscle contractility in response to bethanechol was significantly decreased, being more pronounced in the early group. Immunohistochemistry revealed signal for ICAM-1 in the muscularis microvasculature and on infiltrating cells. These results suggest that the expression of ICAM-1 within the muscularis vasculature after hemorrhagic shock promotes the local recruitment of leukocytes and that this inflammatory response is accompanied by a subsequent impairment of intestinal contractility.