Background. Though cerebral vasospasm is one of the most serious complications of subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH), its complex pathogenesis is poorly understood and available clinical treatment options are unsatisfactory. This study was designed to examine the efficacy of leflunomide, an immunomodulatory agent with inhibitory properties, on vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation and inflammation in a rabbit cerebral vasospasm model. Methods. Twenty-two adult New-Zealand rabbits were assigned to 4 groups: control, SAH, SAH plus vehicle, SAH plus leflunomide. Subarachnoid haemorrhage was induced by administration of 1 ml of fresh unheparinised autologous arterial blood into the cisterna magna. Oral leflunomide (2 mg/kg) or vehicle treatment was started 12 h after the induction of subarachnoid haemorrhage and administered once a day. Three days later, the animals were sacrificed and the basilar artery was examined histologically for the lumen area and the thickness of the vessel wall. Inflammatory reaction was also examined by counting white blood cells within the vessel wall by means of light microscopic examination using haematoxylin and eosin staining. Findings. Severe and moderate vasospasms were detected in the basilar artery of the SAH and SAH plus vehicle treated groups, respectively. Leflunomide effectively reduced the vasospasm of the basilar artery. Compared to the vehicle treated group, leflunomide significantly reduced the lumen area (p < 0.01) and hyperplasia of the vessel wall (p < 0.01). Although inflammatory response within the vessel wall was reduced in the leflunomide treated group, no statistical significance was found between groups (p = 0.07). Conclusion. This study demonstrates for the first time that leflunomide treatment attenuates cerebral vasospasm in a rabbit SAH model while inflammatory reaction in the vessel wall is not affected. Although further studies are needed to reveal its molecular mechanisms in relieving vasospasm, leflunomide may provide a therapeutic potential for human cerebral vasospasm induced by SAH. © 2007 Springer-Verlag.