Polyethylene (PE) was irradiated with 15 keV O +, P + and Ar + ions to the fluences from 3 × 10 12 to 1 × 10 15 cm -2. The changes of surface structure and polarity and oxygen concentration were examined on pristine and as-irradiated PE. The in vitro adhesion of rat 3T3 fibroblasts on the modified PE was evaluated 24 h after inoculation. Degradation of PE is manifested by the creation of conjugated double bonds and oxidation of the PE main chain. It was proved that the implanted P atoms are chemically bound onto degraded polymer chain. Wettability of the polymer surface is affected by the structure and composition of the modified surface layer. In comparison with pristine PE (i) higher cell adhesion is observed on implanted PE and (ii) the cells cultivated on implanted PE are larger and their adherence is significantly more homogeneous. The enhancement of 3T3 cells adhesion is highest and smallest for PE implanted with O + and Ar + ions, respectively. Highest cell adhesion was observed on PE implanted to the fluence of 1 × 10 13 cm -2 regardless of the ion specie. It was shown that the cell adhesion is related to the wettability of the PE surface and that there exists an optimal wettability with respect to the cell adhesion.