Antioxidant defense potential, malondialdehyde (MDA) levels, and relative hydroxyl radical (OH.) concentrations were measured in order to establish the effects of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) on free radical production and antioxidant defense potential of the rabbit kidney tissues. Electron microscopic examination was also performed to observe ultrastructural changes. The antioxidant defense potential of the ESWL-treated tissues was found to be reduced, and the MDA levels increased as compared with controls. Vitamin (vitamin E plus C combination) pretreatment ameliorated antioxidant defense potential in part, prevented increases in MDA levels in the ESWL-treated tissues, and increased the antioxidant defense potential in the control kidney tissues. After ESWL, a significant amount of OH. radical was measured in the affected tissue. This revealed the source of oxidant stress and peroxidation reactions in the ESWL-treated kidney tissue. Vitamin pretreatment caused significant reduction in the OH. radical concentration. In the electron microscopic investigation, some significant subcellular changes, such as endothelial injury, loss of foot processes, damage of glomerular basal membrane, etc., were observed in the ESWL-treated renal tissue slices. Vitamin pretreatment to a great extent prevented formation of these subcellular changes. Our results suggest that the antioxidant capacity of the kidney tissue was reduced after ESWL treatment and that the tissue was exposed to oxidant stress. Vitamin pretreatment exerted significant protection against the radical damage.