Introduction. Recent studies have shown that administration of the sex steroid dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in males following trauma-hemorrhagic shock has salutary effects on the depressed cardiovascular and immunological functions under those conditions. Since the effects of sex steroids are gender specific, we examined whether administration of DHEA has any beneficial effects on hepatocellular function in female rats with low estrogen levels following trauma-hemorrhage. Methods. Ovariectomy was performed in female Sprague-Dawley rats 14 days prior to the experiments. The animals then underwent a 5-cm midline laparotomy and were subjected to hemorrhagic shock (40 mm Hg for 90 min). This was followed by fluid resuscitation (Ringer's lactate over 60 min) and administration of DHEA (30 mg/kg BW) or vehicle subcutaneously at the end of resuscitation. At 24 h after resuscitation hepatocellular function, i.e., clearance of indocyanine green (ICG), and hepatocyte damage (serum alanine aminotransferase) were measured. Plasma levels of DHEA and 17β-estradiol were also assayed. Results. Vehicle-treated rats had significantly reduced hepatocellular function, increased ALT activity, and decreased levels of 17β-estradiol following trauma-hemorrhage compared to sham-operated animals (P < 0.05, ANOVA and Student-Newman-Keuls test). In animals receiving DHEA following trauma-hemorrhage, hepatocellular function and ALT activity were similar to those of shams. However, administration of DHEA did not influence the plasma levels of 17β-estradiol. Conclusions. Administration of DHEA following trauma-hemorrhage restored hepatocellular function and reduced hepatic damage that was observed in ovariectomized female rats under such conditions. This salutary effect of DHEA did not appear to be due to elevated levels of plasma 17β-estradiol. We therefore propose that DHEA should be considered a novel, safe, and useful adjunct in the treatment of trauma-induced hepatocellular dysfunction in ovariectomized and postmenopausal females. © 2001 Academic Press.