The aim of this study was to evaluate the anti-inflammatory effect of tirilazad mesylate on edema and interleukin-1 (IL-1) levels in serum following standardized surgical procedures. Four groups, each containing eight rats, were randomized for treatment as follows: A) no medication, B) low-dose tirilazad, C) high-dose tirilazad, and D) corticosteroids. The animals were examined by nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI) 24 and 72 hours after surgery and the NMRI data were used in the determination of soft tissue edema. In addition, serum was obtained for analysis of IL-1 levels. Four other groups of animals were subjected to the same treatment regimen as groups A-D), respectively, and 24 hours after surgery the animals were killed, whereafter serum was obtained for analysis of IL-1 levels. The present study demonstrated that low-dose tirilazad significantly reduces soft tissue edema compared with all other treatment regimens 24 hours postoperatively. At 72 hours postoperatively significant reduction of soft tissue edema was achieved at low-dose tirilazad when compared to high-dose tirilazad and steroids. In addition, a significant suppression of the expression of IL-1 was observed at 24 and 72 hours when comparing low-dose tirilazad and the control group.