Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is an inflammatory cytokine that may be an important mediator in the development of the systemic sequelae associated with severe acute pancreatitis. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the neutralization of TNF-alpha with a polyclonal antibody could ameliorate selected biochemical parameters of severe pancreatitis in a rat model. Pancreatitis was induced by an antegrade injection of artificial bile into the bile duct. Forty rats were randomized into 4 groups: no surgery (controls), saline infusion to bile duct (sham), placebo treatment in animals with pancreatitis (placebo + Px), and pretreatment with a polyclonal antibody (PAb) in animals with pancreatitis (PAb + Px). Serum TNF-alpha, amylase, calcium, hematocrit, glucose, and ascites volume were measured 2 hours after bile duct infusion. Pretreatment with the PAb produced a significant improvement in all parameters when compared with pancreatitis animals treated with placebo (p < 0.001). In addition, TNF-alpha, which was elevated in animals with pancreatitis, was reduced significantly in treated animals (p < 0.001). These results suggest that TNF-alpha may be an important mediator in the evolution of the systemic manifestations of severe acute pancreatitis.