Male rats were subjected to 1 h testicular torsion of the spermatic cord or 1 h torsion followed by detorsion and recovery up to 4 weeks. The extent of tissue damage was evaluated by a testicular biopsy score count and mitochondrial function. Torsion for 1 h followed by detorsion induced significant morphological damage, which became more severe with longer periods of recovery. This morphological damage could not be correlated with mitochondrial damage as assessed by measuring the 4834 bp mitochondrial DNA 'common deletion' using a quantitative competitive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. Mitochondrial respiratory chain activity, as measured by mitochondrial oxygen consumption using an oxygen electrode, did not vary between the treated animals and the controls. We conclude that the common mitochondrial DNA deletion and oxygen consumption are not good indicators of testicular damage induced by torsion.