OBJECTIVES: To evaluate gastric emptying in patients with chronic liver disease and portal hypertension. METHODS: We measured gastric emptying of both the liquid and solid components of a meal in 10 consecutive patients with chronic liver disease and portal hypertension, but free of ascites, and 14 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. In the patients with liver disease, relationships between emptying and liver function were examined. To measure gastric emptying, subjects consumed a test meal that consisted of scrambled eggs labeled with 99mTc-sulfur colloid and 4 oz of water labeled with 111In-diethylene triamine pentacetic acid (DTPA). RESULTS: Patients with liver disease and portal hypertension demonstrated delayed emptying of both the liquid (t1/2, min, mean +/- SE, patients vs. Controls: 69.4 +/- 19.4 vs. 31.4 +/- 1.8, p < 0.01) and solid (post-lag phase solid emptying: 141 +/- 32.9 vs. 69.8 +/- 4.6, p < 0.006) components of the meal. We could not identify any correlation between gastric emptying and tests of liver function. CONCLUSIONS: Gastric emptying is delayed in patients with liver disease and portal hypertension; this abnormal gastric motor function may contribute to the pathophysiology of foregut complaints in this patient population.