An important aspect of any new viscoelastic substance is the corneal endothelial protection. We compared the protective effects of sodium hyaluronate (Healon) and hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (Occucoat) by introducing a controlled volume of air bubbles into the anterior chamber of human eye bank eyes during ultrasonic agitation of the anterior chamber. Eight eyes received Healon and 11 eyes received Occucoat. Damage to endothelial cells in the central cornea was quantified by vital staining. Endothelial damage averaged 4.5% in eyes in which no viscoelastic was used (positive control); damage was 0.4% in eyes in which a viscoelastic was injected but no air bubbles were introduced (negative control). We found that endothelial damage averaged 4.25% in specimens that received air plus Healon and 1.4% in specimens that received air plus Occucoat. Occucoat appeared to have somewhat better protective effects than Healon against air bubble damage to the corneal endothelium during ultrasonic agitation of the anterior chamber.