The effect of cisapride on duration of post-operative ileus after surgery was investigated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Patients undergoing elective upper gastrointestinal (n = 47) or colonic (n = 22) surgery were pre-operatively randomly allocated to treatment with either cisapride 30 mg t.d.s., by rectal administration, or placebo. Treatment started exactly 48 h after surgery if the patient at this time had not passed stool. Time to passage of first stool after surgery was estimated. Mean time to passage of stool was 85 (32) h (s.d.) for cisapride-treated and 91 (43) h for placebo-treated patients. No difference between the treatment groups was noted. Treatment with cisapride did not shorten the duration of postoperative ileus after either upper gastrointestinal or colonic surgery.