Based on the hypothesis that Ca(2+) overload in the scala media may produce endolymphatic hydrops and generate free oxygen radicals (FOR), allopurinol, a xanthine oxidase inhibitor and free radical scavenger, was administered to guinea pigs after the surgical obliteration of the endolymphatic duct. Allopurinol was given intraperitoneally (50 mg/kg/day) for 15 days starting 1 day prior to the surgical blockage procedure. Measurements from histological serial sections of these temporal bones showed that the total volume of the scala media was significantly reduced (p = 0.007) compared with control hydropic ears. There was an indication of reduced incidence of atrophy in sensorineural structures and stria vascularis. These findings suggest that allopurinol may attenuate the development of endolymphatic hydrops and cell damage by preventing the formation of FOR or scavenging FOR. This study may lead to a new aspect of treatment for Menière's disease.