We studied whether or not propranolol underwent presystemic metabolism in the gastrointestinal wall in five dogs. The dogs were studied before and four weeks after creation of a portacaval transposition. Before surgery, systemic bioavailability of the oral dose was 8 +/- 8% (mean +/- S.D.), whereas after transposition the bioavailability was 102 +/- 9%. The systemic plasma clearance increased from 766 +/- 192 to 976 +/- 280 ml/min. The terminal half life and apparent volume of distribution after transposition were not significantly different from those obtained preoperatively. Our results indicate that there is complete absorption but no metabolism of propranolol by the gastrointestinal wall.