BACKGROUND: Little is known about the effects of propofol on oxidative stress and its effect on key structures of the contractile apparatus as the myosin light chain 2 (MLC2) and the p38MAPK survival pathway in the preterm heart. We hypothesized that propofol administration could attenuate the hypoxic myocardial injury after birth asphyxia. METHODS: Pregnant ewes were randomized to receive either propofol or isoflurane anesthesia. A total of 44 late-preterm lambs were subjected to in utero umbilical cord occlusion (UCO), resulting in asphyxia and cardiac arrest, or sham treatment. After emergency cesarean delivery, each fetus was resuscitated, mechanically ventilated, and supported under anesthesia for 8 h using the same anesthetic as the one received by its mother. RESULTS: At 8h after UCO, occurrence of reactive oxygen species and activation of inducible nitric oxide synthase in the heart were lower in association with propofol anesthesia than with isoflurane. This was accompanied by less degradation of MLC2 but higher p38MAPK level and in echocardiography with a trend toward a higher median left ventricular fractional shortening. CONCLUSION: The use of propofol resulted in less oxidative stress and was associated with less cytoskeletal damage of the contractile apparatus than the use of isoflurane anesthesia.