BACKGROUND: Neuroprotection from therapeutic hypothermia increases when combined with the anaesthetic gas xenon in animal studies. A clinical feasibility study of the combined treatment has been successfully undertaken in asphyxiated human term newborns. It is unknown whether xenon alone would be sufficient for sedation during hypothermia eliminating or reducing the need for other sedative or analgesic infusions in ventilated sick infants. Minimum alveolar concentration (MAC) of xenon is unknown in any neonatal species. METHODS: Eight newborn pigs were anaesthetised with sevoflurane alone and then sevoflurane plus xenon at two temperatures. Pigs were randomised to start at either 38.5°C or 33.5°C. MAC for sevoflurane was determined using the claw clamp technique at the preset body temperature. For xenon MAC determination, a background of 0.5 MAC sevoflurane was used, and 60% xenon added to the gas mixture. The relationship between sevoflurane and xenon MAC is assumed to be additive. Xenon concentrations were changed in 5% steps until a positive clamp reaction was noted. Pigs' temperature was changed to the second target, and two MAC determinations for sevoflurane and 0.5 MAC sevoflurane plus xenon were repeated. RESULTS: MAC for sevoflurane was 4.1% [95% confidence interval (CI): 3.65-4.50] at 38.5°C and 3.05% (CI: 2.63-3.48) at 33.5°C, a significant reduction. MAC for xenon was 120% at 38.5°C and 116% at 33.5°C, not different. CONCLUSION: In newborn swine sevoflurane, MAC was temperature dependent, while xenon MAC was independent of temperature. There was large individual variability in xenon MAC, from 60% to 120%.