Functional adaptation of remaining intestine was evaluated in 30 patients with extensive small bowel resection. Calcium and xylose absorption tests were compared. Calcium absorption was measured by a double-radiotracer technique. Serum xylosemia was measured 2 hr after D-xylose ingestion. Patients were divided into two groups according to the time interval between surgery and evaluation: less (group I) or more (group II) than two years. A statistically significant correlation was found between xylosemia and remaining small bowel length (r = 0.71; P less than 0.001) and between calcium absorption and remaining small bowel length (r = 0.75; P less than 0.001) in group I. A significant correlation was also observed between calcium absorption and time after surgery (r = 0.65; P = 0.001) but not for xylose absorption. Calcium absorption value was significantly increased in group II patients compared with group I patients matched for remaining small bowel length (36.2 +/- 12.5% vs 14.5 +/- 9.1%; P less than 0.001) while no difference was observed between the two groups concerning xylose absorption. These data indicate that intestinal calcium absorption continues to increase for more than two years after a major bowel resection in man. The intestine does not seem to recover all its functions at the same time.