Atherosclerosis and valvular heart disease often require treatment with corrective surgery to prevent future myocardial infarction, ischemic heart disease, and heart failure. Mechanisms underlying the development of the associated complications of surgery are multifactorial and have been linked to inflammation and oxidative stress, classically as measured in the blood or plasma of patients. Postoperative pericardial fluid (PO-PCF) has not been investigated in depth with respect to the potential to induce oxidative stress. This is important because cardiac surgery disrupts the integrity of the pericardial membrane surrounding the heart and causes significant alterations in the composition of the pericardial fluid (PCF). This includes contamination with hemolyzed blood and high concentrations of oxidized hemoglobin, which suggests that cardiac surgery results in oxidative stress within the pericardial space. Accordingly, we tested the hypothesis that PO-PCF is highly pro-oxidant and that the potential interaction between inflammatory cell-derived hydrogen peroxide with hemoglobin is associated with oxidative stress. Blood and PCF were collected from 31 patients at the time of surgery and postoperatively from 4 to 48 h after coronary artery bypass grafting, valve replacement, or valve repair (mitral or aortic). PO-PCF contained high concentrations of neutrophils and monocytes, which are capable of generating elevated amounts of superoxide and hydrogen peroxide through the oxidative burst. In addition, PO-PCF primed naive neutrophils resulting in an enhanced oxidative burst upon stimulation. The PO-PCF also contained increased concentrations of cell-free oxidized hemoglobin that was associated with elevated levels of F 2 isoprostanes and prostaglandins, consistent with both oxidative stress and activation of cyclooxygenase. Lastly, protein analysis of the PO-PCF revealed evidence of protein thiol oxidation and protein carbonylation. We conclude that PO-PCF is highly pro-oxidant and speculate that it may contribute to the risk of postoperative complications.