Lipid peroxidation has been reported to play an important role in spinal cord injury (SCI). Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hematopoietic growth factor that stimulates proliferation and differentiation of erythroid precursor cells and is also known to exert neurotrophic activity in the central nervous system. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of recombinant human EPO in attenuating the severity of experimental SCI. Rats were divided into seven groups. Controls (1) received only laminectomy. The trauma-only group (2) underwent 50-g/cm contusion injury and had no medication. In group 3, 30 mg/kg of methylprednisolone was introduced. The vehicle group (4) received vehicle solution containing human serum albumin, which is a solvent of EPO. Groups 5, 6, and 7 received 100 IU/kg, 1,000 IU/kg, and 5,000 IU/kg of EPO, respectively. All treatments were given as single doses, intraperitoneally, immediately after injury. Thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances were estimated to demonstrate lipid peroxidation, and ultrastructure was evaluated by electron microscopy. The results showed that lipid peroxidation by-products increased after injury. Administration of EPO and methylprednisolone sodium succinate (MPSS) reduced thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances after trauma. The best biochemical results were obtained with 5,000 IU/kg of EPO. Electron microscopic findings showed that EPO protected the spinal cord from injury. Although 1,000 IU/kg and 5,000 IU/kg of EPO inhibited lipid peroxidation better than MPSS, ultrastructural neuroprotection was similar.