Twelve ileostomy patients were given subcutaneous SMS 201-995 therapy (100 micrograms t.d.s. for 5 days) in a randomized placebo-controlled trial. All patients had ileostomies constructed 60 cm proximal to the terminal ileum (proximal ileostomy) following restorative proctocolectomy. SMS 201-995 reduced the daily ileostomy output from 997 +/- 52 g to 736 +/- 28 g, P < 0.05, along with a decrease in daily sodium and chloride excretion (sodium: 92.60 +/- 8.51 to 75.22 +/- 8.64 mEq, chloride: 143.46 +/- 8.54 to 113.60 +/- 15.84 mEq; both P < 0.05). There were no significant changes in the plasma levels of glucagon, C peptide, insulin, renin or aldosterone with SMS 201-995 therapy. Patients developed no severe side effects and reported easier management of the ileostomy and a reduction in thirst. Our results suggest a possible clinical role for SMS 201-995 in the management of proximal ileostomy.