Peritoneal transport characteristics of 20 long-term (LT) patients with a mean duration on continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) of 60 months were compared with those of 20 matched patients who recently started (RS) CAPD (mean 39 days, range 11-63). Mass transfer area coefficients (MTC) of creatinine, glucose and inulin were higher in the LT group than in the RS group (12.1 versus 9.2 ml/min, p less than 0.01; 9.9 versus 8.3 ml/min, p less than 0.05; 4.1 versus 3.5 ml/min, p less than 0.05). The MTC of alpha 2-macroglobulin were lower in the LT group (13 versus 25 microliters/min; p less than 0.01). The size selectivity of the membrane for the transport of macromolecules, determined as protein MTC ratios, showed a more restricted passage for macromolecules in the LT group. Net fluid removal using glucose 3.86% was lower in the LT patients (487 versus 826 ml/4 h; p less than 0.001). The results indicate the development of a larger effective peritoneal surface area combined with a less permeable peritoneal membrane after many years of CAPD.