AIM: To investigate the effects of antithrombin III (AT III) injection via the portal vein in acute liver failure. METHODS: Thirty rats were intraperitoneally challenged with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and D-galactosamine (GalN) and divided into three groups: a control group; a group injected with AT III via the tail vein; and a group injected with AT III via the portal vein. AT III (50 U/kg body weight) was administrated 1 h after challenge with LPS and GalN. Serum levels of inflammatory cytokines and fibrin degradation products, hepatic fibrin deposition, and hepatic mRNA expression of hypoxia-related genes were analyzed. RESULTS: Serum levels of alanine aminotransferase, tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6 decreased significantly following portal vein AT III injection compared with tail vein injection, and control rats. Portal vein AT III injection reduced liver cell destruction and decreased hepatic fibrin deposition. This treatment also significantly reduced hepatic mRNA expression of lactate dehydrogenase and heme oxygenase-1. CONCLUSION: A clinically acceptable dose of AT III injection into the portal vein suppressed liver damage, probably through its enhanced anticoagulant and anti-inflammatory activities.