It has been demonstrated that hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) is useful as an adjunctive therapy for Crohn's disease. However, its effects on ulcerative colitis have not been investigated. In the present study, HBO was tested for acetic acid-induced colitis, and antioxidant systems were evaluated to clarify its possible mode of action. Thirty-six Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into three groups: sham control (Group I), colitis induced by acetic acid without any therapy (Group II), colitis induced by acetic acid and treated with HBO (Group III). HBO was given for 5 days, 2 sessions per day at 2.5-fold absolute atmosphere pressure (ATA) for a period of 90 min in rats in which colitis had been induced (Group III). Rats were sacrificed on the 5th day after the procedure. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), malondialdehyde (MDA) and glutathione peroxidase (GSH Px) activity were measured in the intestinal tissue and erythrocyte lysate. MDA and GSH Px were also determined in the plasma. Whereas MDA levels in erythrocyte, plasma and intestinal tissue were decreased, the levels of GSH Px and SOD were significantly increased in Group III as compared to those of Group II. The results of our study suggest that hyperbaric oxygen therapy has beneficial effects on the course of experimental distal colitis and that antioxidant systems may be involved in its mode of action.