The pharmacokinetics of ampicillin-sulbactam in elderly subjects (65 to 85 years; group 3, n = 8), compared with those in middle-aged (41 to 64 years; group 2, n = 8) and younger (20 to 40 years; group 1, n = 8) subjects, were investigated. A single 2-g dose of ampicillin combined with 1 g of sulbactam in 60 ml of intravenous solution was administered to each subject over a 30-min period. Blood and urine samples were taken at baseline and serially over an 8.5-h period following the infusion. Ampicillin and sulbactam concentrations were assayed by high-performance liquid chromatography on a reversed-phase C-8 column. The mean levels in serum of both ampicillin and sulbactam were significantly higher for samples from group 3: for ampicillin from 1 through 8.5 h, and for sulbactam for the same time interval except at 5.5 h (P less than or equal to 0.05). The mean urinary excretion of both ampicillin and sulbactam was lowest, and urinary concentrations were highest in group 3. The areas under the serum drug concentration-time curve, the half-lives, and the maximum concentrations in serum were greatest, while the total clearance was lowest, for group 3 for both ampicillin and sulbactam. These results are consistent with a prolongation of antimicrobial activity of ampicillin-sulbactam in the elderly compared with that in younger subjects.