The coagulation cascade has a potential role in brain edema formation due to intracerebral hemorrhage. In this study blood and other solutions were injected stereotactically into the right basal ganglia in rats. Twenty-four hours following injection, brain water and ion contents were measured to determine the amount of brain edema. Intracerebral blood resulted in an increase in brain water content. The amount of brain edema surrounding the intracerebral hematoma was reduced by a thrombin inhibitor N alpha-(2-Naphthalenesulfonylglycyl)-4-amidino-DL-phenylalaninep iperidide, (alpha-NAPAP) infused into the hematoma after the clot had been allowed to solidify. The inhibitor did not alter the actual size of the clot mass. An artificial clot composed of fibrinogen, thrombin, and styrene microspheres also produced brain edema. A fibrin clot led to edema formation even in the absence of mass effect provided by the microspheres. The single component responsible for production of brain edema in all these models was thrombin. The edema was formed in response to a fibrinogen-independent pathway. These results indicate that the coagulation cascade is involved in brain edema that develops adjacent to an intracerebral hematoma.