The present study established a rabbit model of global cerebral ischemia using the ‘six-vessel’ method, which was reperfused after 30 minutes of ischemia. Rabbits received intravenous injection of propofol at 5 mg/kg prior to ischemia and 20 mg/kg per hour after ischemia until samples were prepared. Results revealed that propofol inhibited serum interleukin-8, endothelin-1 and malondialdehyde increases and promoted plasma superoxide dismutase activity after cerebral ischemia/reperfusion. In addition, cerebral cortex edema was attenuated with little neuronal nuclear degeneration and pyknosis with propofol treatment. The cross-sectional area of neuronal nuclei was, however, increased following propofol treatment. These findings suggested that propofol could improve anti-oxidant activity and inhibit synthesis of inflammatory factors to exert a protective effect on cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury.