In this study, we investigated the effects of erythropoietin (Epo), and pentoxifylline (Ptx) on the oxidant and antioxidant systems in the experimental short bowel syndrome. Spraque-Dawley rats were divided into four groups and all animals underwent 75% small bowel resection. Group E was treated with 500 IU kg(-1) Epo subcutaneously (s.c.), group P with 50 mg kg(-1) day(-1) s.c. Ptx and group E + P with 500 IU kg(-1) s.c. Epo plus 50 mg kg(-1) day(-1) s.c. Ptx for a period of 28 days. In group C, which is the control group, no drug treatment was given. At the end of 28 days the experimented rats were killed and ileum samples excised for biochemical and histopathological testing. Malondialdehyde (MDA), superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) levels were determined in ileum homogenates. When compared to group C, the MDA and GSH-Px levels were significantly decreased (p < 0.05), but SOD activitiy was not changed (p > 0.05) in groups P and E + P, whereas both MDA and SOD and also GSH-Px activities were not changed significantly in group E (p > 0.05). The average villous length, crypt depth, muscular thickness and mucosal length were measured in all groups. The average crypt depth and mucosal length were statistically higher in the group P than group C (p < 0.001, p < 0.01, respectively). In addition, the crypt depth was statistically higher in both E and E + P groups as compared to group C (p < 0.001, p < 0.01, respectively). Therefore, our study indicates that Ptx may be more effective than Epo in reducing lipid peroxidation. Moreover, we considered that Ptx may give this protective effect by inhibiting the free oxygen radicals to a greater extent than developing the antioxidant capacity. Copyright (C) 2002 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.