The ideal agent to produce pleurodesis has not been identified. Tetracycline, the drug used most commonly in the 1980s, is no longer available. Talc either aerosolized or in a slurry is the agent used just most commonly at the present time, but there are concerns about its safety. Another possibility is silver nitrate, which was widely used in the past, but was abandoned on account of side effects. We hypothesized that lower concentrations of silver nitrate than had been used in the past would be effective in creating a pleurodesis in rabbits. The following medications in a total volume of 2 mL were instilled intrapleurally in three groups of ten anesthetized rabbits: 0.25% or 0.50% silver nitrate and 35 mg/kg tetracycline. Twenty-eight days after the injection, the animals were sacrificed and the pleural spaces were assessed grossly for evidence of pleurodesis and microscopically for evidence of fibrosis and inflammation. The intrapleural injection of 0.50% silver nitrate produced an effective pleurodesis. The mean degree of gross pleurodesis in the rabbits that received 0.50% silver nitrate (3.4 +/- 1.2) did not differ significantly from that of the rabbits that received tetracycline (3.5 +/- 0.7) (scale 0 to 4). The mean degree of microscopic pleural fibrosis in the rabbits that received 0.50% silver nitrate (3.4 +/- 0.7) did not differ significantly from that of the rabbits that received tetracycline (3.9 +/- 0.3). However, 0.25% silver nitrate was ineffective in creating pleural fibrosis, either grossly or microscopically. No rabbits died after the intrapleural injection of the drugs. There were no observed side effects after the injection of silver nitrate. The present study demonstrates that 0.50% silver nitrate instilled into the pleural space is an effective agent for producing pleurodesis in the rabbit; its effect is comparable to tetracycline 35 mg/kg. This agent should be compared with tetracycline derivatives and talc in studies in humans.