The effects of portal hypertension on gut function may be mediated by venous congestion and altered circulating levels of enteric hormones and neuropeptides. We designed this study to determine the effects of chronic intestinal venous hypertension (VHT), in isolation, on gut motility and absorption. In 10 dogs, a 20- to 25-cm loop of jejunum was isolated from the fecal stream, but myoneural continuity was maintained with the proximal bowel by a seromuscular bridge. In 5 dogs, VHT was created in the loop by a fixed stenosis of its venous drainage; a sham procedure was performed in a further 5 animals. Serosal monopolar electrodes were placed in all animals. Absorptive function and myoelectrical activity were studied over a 4-week period. Venous hypertension was achieved and sustained in the VHT animals; loop vein pressures for VHT vs control in cm H2O (means +/- SEM) are: initial--29.8 +/- 1.8 vs 7.5 +/- 0.4 (P less than 0.01), and at 4 weeks--17.6 +/- 6.88 vs 7.3 +/- 0.2 (P less than 0.01). Absorption of Na+, Cl-, glucose, and water was impaired in VHT loops. Normal patterns of fasting and postprandial myoelectrical activity were preserved in the VHT animals. We conclude that chronic VHT, in the absence of portosystemic shunting, results in impaired absorption of water, glucose, and electrolytes without any change in intestinal motility.