Hydrogels of polymerized and crosslinked macromers comprising hydrophilic oligomers having biodegradable monomeric or oligomeric extensions, which biodegradable extensions are terminated on free ends with end cap monomers or oligomers capable of polymerization and cross linking are described. The hydrophilic core itself may be degradable, thus combining the core and extension functions. Macromers are polymerized using free radical initiators under the influence of long wavelength ultraviolet light, visible light excitation or thermal energy. Biodegradation occurs at the linkages within the extension oligomers and results in fragments which are non-toxic and easily removed from the body. Preferred applications for the hydrogels include prevention of adhesion formation after surgical procedures, controlled release of drugs and other bioactive species, temporary protection or separation of tissue surfaces, adhering of sealing tissues together, and preventing the attachment of cells to tissue surfaces.