Topical hemostatic agents are widely and safely used in neurosurgery. The purpose of this study was to compare and analyse the early tissue reactions to two hemostatic agents, oxidized regenerated cellulose and gelatin sponge, in rabbit brain by magnetic resonance imaging and histopathologic sections. Bilateral identical parenchymal lesions were made in the frontal regions of each hemisphere in 13 rabbits. Hemostasis was achieved using oxidized regenerated cellulose or gelatin sponge, one agent being used on each side. Cranial magnetic resonance imaging was performed 24 h postoperatively and there was no statistical difference in edema formation at the site of the lesions. Histopathologic examinations indicated that pericapillary edema and endothelial distortion were common in both groups but that there was additional tissue degeneration evident in the regions where gelatin sponge had been used. Oxidized regenerated cellulose seemed to cause greater tissue distortion in magnetic resonance images than gelatin sponge but in contrast, histological examination of lesions in which oxidized regenerated cellulose had been used revealed less tissue degeneration than histopathologic examinations of lesions in which gelatin sponge had been used. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.