We used a low-compliance manometric system to study duodenal and jejunal motility in 33 patients with chronic dyspeptic symptoms and previous negative conventional findings. Nine healthy controls were studied in the same way. Manometric recordings disclosed activity front abnormalities (retrograde or simultaneous propagation) in 45% of patients and an absence of activity fronts in 6%. Moreover, intestinal motor response to a 600-kcal test meal was significantly impaired in the patient group (61.1 +/- 8.1 versus 113.2 +/- 4.2 min, p less than 0.05). We conclude that manometric techniques may be important for investigating patients with chronic dyspepsia and negative findings at previous conventional examinations.