Obstructive jaundice is associated with high morbidity and mortality. Major complications such as pulmonary dysfunction, renal failure and sepsis are frequently encountered. Recent studies and observations suggest that the free oxygen radicals (FORs) produced in obstructive jaundice may play a significant role in the etiopathogenesis of acute renal failure ARF). Thirty rats were divided into three groups, as sham, control and treatment groups containing 10 rats each. Laparatomy was performed on each animal in the control and treatment groups and common bile ducts were ligated. Common bile duct was observed but was not ligated for the rats in the sham group. Saline solution injection was begun on the first day of surgical procedure and repeated once a day during the following 5 days. The same procedure was performed with oxygen radical scavenger dimethyl sulfoxide (1.5 mg/kg/day i.p.) instead of saline in the treatment group. The rats were sacrificed on the 7th postoperative day. On the 7th postoperative day, the bilirubin, urea and creatinine levels of the control and treatment groups were significantly higher in comparison with the sham group (p < 0.01). Although there was no statistically significant difference between the bilirubin levels of the control and treatment groups (p > 0.05), the urea and creatinine levels in the treatment group were significantly lower (p < 0.01). On the 7th postoperative day, the erythrocyte superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) levels of the control and treatment groups were significantly lower than those of the sham group (p < 0.01), whereas renal and erythrocyte malondialdehyde (MDA) levels were significantly higher (p < 0.01). Although SOD and GSH-Px levels did not differ significantly between the treatment and control groups (p > 0.05), renal and erythrocyte MDA levels of the treatment group were significantly lower than those of the control group (p < 0.01). The histopathological scores were significantly higher in the control and treatment groups (p < 0.01); there was no significant difference between the control and treatment groups (p > 0.05). FORs seem to play a significant role in the etiopathogenesis of renal failure in obstructive jaundice. Antioxidant treatment may decrease oxidative damage due to FORs and may prevent renal failure. Copyright (C) 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel.