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Oxidative stress results from an oxidant/antioxidant imbalance, an excess of oxidants, or a depletion of antioxidants. A considerable body of recent evidence suggests that oxidative stress and exaggerated production of reactive oxygen species play a major role in several aspects of septic shock and ischemia and reperfusion. Initiation of lipid peroxidation, direct inhibition of mitochondrial respiratory chain enzymes, inactivation of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, inhibition of membrane Na+/K+ adenosine triphosphatase activity, inactivation of membrane sodium channels, and other oxidative protein modifications contribute to the cytotoxic effect of reactive oxygen species. In addition, reactive oxygen species are potent triggers of DNA strand breakage, with subsequent activation of the nuclear enzyme poly-adenosine 5′-diphosphate ribosyl synthetase, and eventual severe energy depletion of the cells. Pharmacologic evidence suggests that the peroxynitrite-poly-adenosine 5′-diphosphate ribosyl polymerase pathway contributes to the cellular injury in shock and endothelial injury. Treatment with superoxide dismutase mimetics, which selectively mimic the catalytic activity of the human superoxide dismutase enzymes, has been shown to prevent the cellular energetic failure associated with shock and ischemia-reperfusion and to prevent in vivo tissue damage associated with these conditions. In this article, we will briefly review the role of superoxide in septic shock and ischemia-reperfusion injury. We hope to present evidence to support the potential development of superoxide dismutase mimetics as novel and effective agents in the area of critical care medicine.