The levels of oxidants xanthine oxidase (XO), nitric oxide (NO), and malondialdehyde (MDA) and of the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), and glutathione reductase (GRID) were determined in plasma within 24 h after onset of hemorrhagic stroke in 17 patients (9 men and 8 women, aged 60.7 +/- 11.5 yr) and in 20 healthy controls (12 men and 8 women, aged 62.5 +/- 8.3 yr). Compared to controls, the plasma SOD and total superoxide scavenger activities (TSSA) were significantly lower and the NO levels were significantly higher among the stroke patients. XO showed a slight, nonsignificant increase in the patients, but the levels of MDA, NSSA, GRD, and GSH-Px did not show any significant differences between the two groups. The hemorrhage volume was negatively correlated with the initial score of the Glasgow Coma Scale and a positive correlation with lethal outcome, but it did not correlate significantly with any of the measured parameters. The results suggest that free radicals might play a role in the development of brain injury following brain hemorrhage.