The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of free radical ablation therapy in acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis was induced in 64 rats by retrograde injection of 5% sodium taurocholate. Thirty animals were pretreated with 100,000 units/kg/hr of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and 400,000 units/kg catalase within the first 3 hr. After 0.5, 3.5, and 12 hr of observation time, serum enzymes and the tissue content of conjugated dienes, malondialdehyde, reduced and oxidized glutathione, as well as ATP, ADP and AMP were measured. In addition, tissue samples were examined by light microscopy. Untreated rats (N = 34) developed within 12 hr an acute hemorrhagic necrotizing pancreatitis with a concomitant increase in serum enzyme levels and a decrease in reduced glutathione and ATP. Within the 12-hr observation period, 57% of the animals died. Scavenger treatment improved the tissue damage and attenuated the increase of the serum enzyme levels and the decrease in reduced glutathione and ATP. Moreover, the lethality rate was significantly lower. Oxygen radicals seem to be instrumental for the development of acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis. Thereby, antioxidant treatment reduces tissue damage, biochemical alterations and extrapancreatic complications, thus improving the final outcome.