Allopurinol has been shown to provide significant protection against ischemia/reperfusion-induced microvascular and parenchymal cell injury. It has been hypothesized that the protection seen with allopurinol after ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) is caused by inhibition of xanthine oxidase. However, recent reports suggest that the beneficial effects of allopurinol in I/R may be caused by direct free radical scavenging. The objective of this study was to determine whether the regimen of allopurinol administration used in most I/R studies leads to a significant modification of the free radical scavenging properties of extracellular fluid (ECF), i.e., plasma and lymph. Plasma and intestinal lymph samples obtained from both control and allopurinol-treated cats were used to assess the following: 1) allopurinol and oxypurinol concentrations, 2) xanthine oxidase inhibition, 3) myoglobin-catalyzed linolenic acid peroxidation, 4) hypochlorous acid scavenging, and 5) protein and nonprotein sulfhydryl content. ECF from allopurinol-treated animals contained ~ 10 μM each of allopurinol and oxypurinol. Ten percent ECF resulted in 80% inhibition of xanthine oxidase activity. Comparable volumes of control ECF did not inhibit xanthine oxidase. Furthermore, allopurinol treatment did not enhance the antioxidant properties of ECF. The results of this study do not support the contention that the beneficial effects of allopurinol in I/R injury are caused by the scavenging of oxidants produced in ECF by activated granulocytes.