Degradation of membrane phospholipids (PLs) is a well known phenomenon in acute brain injuries and is thought to underlie the disturbance of vital cellular membrane functions. In the present study glycerol, an end product of PL degradation, was examined in brain interstitial fluid as a marker of PL breakdown following experimental traumatic brain injury (TBI) using microdialysis. TBI was induced in artificially ventilated rats using the weight-drop technique. The trauma caused a significant, eight-fold increase of dialysate glycerol in the injured cortex, with the peak concentration in the second 10 min fraction after trauma. Glycerol then levelled off but remained significantly above sham-operated controls for the entire 4 h observation period in the perimeter of the injury region where scattered neuronal death is seen. The results support the concept that PL degradation occurs early after TBI and that interstitial glycerol, harvested by microdialysis, may be useful as a marker allowing in vivo monitoring of PL breakdown.