Corneal photoablation with 193 nm argon fluoride excimer laser is a new technique for the treatment of refractive errors and for removing corneal opacities and irregularities. Ultraviolet radiation and thermal injury induce free radical formation in the tissues. The aim of this study was to confirm the production of free radicals by excimer laser photoablation in rabbits. The thermal changes of the posterior corneal surface were recorded during excimer laser photoablation. The lipid peroxide (LPO) levels and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activities of aqueous humour were measured after excimer laser keratectomy. The aqueous LPO levels were not changed after excimer laser ablation, but both the thermal increase in the cornea during the photoablation and the decreased aqueous SOD activities suggest that free radicals are formed in the cornea during excimer laser keratectomy, and that they may be responsible for some of the complications of excimer laser corneal surgery.