The purpose of this study was to develop and validate a method of directly measuring ileal bile acid absorption efficiency during a single enterohepatic cycle (first-pass ileal clearance). This has become feasible for the first time because of the availability of the synthetic gamma-labeled bile acid 75Selena-homocholic acid-taurine (75SeHCAT). Together with the corresponding natural bile acid cholic acid-taurine (labeled with 14C), SeHCAT was infused distal to an occluding balloon situated beyond the ampulla of Vater in six healthy subjects. Completion of a single enterohepatic cycle was assessed by obtaining a plateau for 75SeHCAT activity proximal to the occluding balloon, which prevented further cycles. Unabsorbed 75SeHCAT was collected after total gut washout, which was administered distal to the occluding balloon. 75SeHCAT activity in the rectal effluent measured by gamma counter was compared with that of absorbed 75SeHCAT level measured by gamma camera and was used to calculate first-pass ileal clearance. This was very efficient (mean value, 96%) and showed very little variation in the six subjects studied (range, 95%-97%). A parallel time-activity course in hepatic bile for 14C and 75Se during a single enterohepatic cycle, together with a ratio of unity for 14C/75Se in samples obtained at different time intervals, suggests that 75SeHCAT is handled by the ileum like the natural bile acid cholic acid-taurine. Extrapolation of 75SeHCAT first-pass ileal clearance to that of the natural bile acid therefore seems justifiable. In a subsidiary experiment, ileal absorption efficiency per day for 75SeHCAT was also measured by scanning the gallbladder area on 5 successive days after the measurement of first-pass ileal clearance. In contrast with absorption efficiency per cycle, absorption efficiency per day varied widely (49%-86%), implying a possible wide variation in recycling frequency per day.