To ascertain the nature, time-course, and extent of the cerebral edema that accompanies perinatal hypoxic-ischemic brain damage, 7-day postnatal rats were subjected to unilateral right common carotid artery ligation followed by exposure to hypoxia with 8% oxygen for up to 3 hours. Some rat pups were sacrificed during hypoxia-ischemia or recovery for determination of cerebral hemispheric water content and percentage of brain swelling. Other animals were sacrificed and their brains processed either for determination of cerebral cortical edema and infarct volume or for horseradish peroxidase staining. The results indicated that cerebral edema occurs even during the course of hypoxia-ischemia and that the extent and duration of edema formation during the recovery period is dependent upon the severity of tissue injury. The data also disclosed a direct, linear correlation between infarct volume and the extent of cerebral edema. Accordingly, the greater the severity of cerebral edema, the proportionately greater the extent of infarction. Horseradish peroxidase staining, a reflection of vasogenic edema, occurred in 17 of 19 brains in a distribution which corresponded closely to the distribution of neuropathologic alterations observed histologically. The findings indicate that cerebral edema can occur in the absence of consequent infarction and that when infarction does occur, the associated edema contributes little or nothing to the severity of the ultimate brain damage.