Active acromegaly is characterized by inappropriate tissue growth, increased mortality, and perturbations of intermediary metabolism. It is, in general, not well described to which extent these disturbances are normalized after treatment of the disease. To further assess basal and insulin stimulated fuel metabolism in acromegaly six patients with monotropic GH excess were each studied approximately 1 month prior to and 2 months after successful selective pituitary adenomectomy and compared to a control population of seven subjects. The studies consisted of a 3-h basal postabsorptive period and a 2-h hyperinsulinaemic (0.4 mU/kg/min) euglycemic clamp and the methods employed included isotopical measurement of glucose turnover, indirect calorimetry, and the forearm technique. When compared to the control subjects the patients with acromegaly were preoperatively and in the basal state characterized by: 1) increased circulating concentrations of GH, insulin, and C-peptide (P less than 0.05); 2) increased plasma glucose (5.9 +/- 0.2 vs. 5.2 +/- 0.2 mmol/L), blood lactate (710 +/- 90 vs. 580 +/- 70 mumol/L), glucose turnover (2.34 +/- 0.12 vs. 1.93 +/- 0.12 mg/kg/min), and plasma lipid intermediates and a decreased forearm glucose uptake (0.06 +/- 0.02 vs. 0.19 +/- 0.04 mmol/L) (P less than 0.05); and 3) a 20% increase in energy expenditure, a 50% elevation of lipid oxidation rates, and a 130% elevation of nonoxidative glucose turnover (P less than 0.05). During the clamp the patients with active acromegaly were substantially resistant to the actions of insulin on both glucose and lipid metabolism. Following pituitary surgery all of these metabolic abnormalities were abolished. We conclude that active acromegaly is characterized by profound disturbances of not only glucose but also lipid metabolism, which in theory may precipitate the increased mortality in this disease. By showing that these abnormalities and the concomitant overall insulin resistance can be completely reversed our results may also have important implications for other insulin-resistant states and for the potential therapeutic use of GH.