Because somatostatin is a potent inhibitor of pancreatic secretion, we hypothesized that pretreatment with somatostatin analogue octreotide (SMS 201-995) might prevent cerulein-induced edematous pancreatitis. We studied 18 rats prepared with jugular vein catheters. The following agents were administered intravenously to groups of four rats for 6 hours: 1 mL/h (control) crystalloid solution; 1-microgram/kg bolus then 1 microgram/kg per hour of octreotide; and 5 micrograms/kg per hour of cerulein; also, in a fourth group of six rats, octreotide and cerulein were administered simultaneously. At the end of experiments, blood was drawn for plasma amylase determinations; rats were killed and pancreata were examined. Supramaximal cerulein administration to conscious rats induced hyperamylasemia and edematous pancreatitis, confirming previous observations; in both groups of rats receiving cerulein, there was prominent interstitial edema, acinar vacuolization, and mild-to-moderate acute inflammation. While octreotide pretreatment of rats with cerulein-induced acute pancreatitis was associated with a lesser increase of wet pancreas weight and plasma amylase concentration, there was little overall benefit of octreotide pretreatment in this form of experimental acute pancreatitis.