Cimetropium bromide is a new antimuscarinic compound with strong antispasmodic activity. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of oral cimetropium bromide on total gut transit time in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Forty patients, divided according to their initial total gastrointestinal transit times and presenting symptoms, were treated with cimetropium bromide 50 mg t.d.s. or placebo for 1 month according to a double-blind, parallel group design. Before and after treatment all subjects ingested 24 radio-opaque markers. The total intestinal transit time was determined by evaluating the rate of disappearance of markers from plain X-ray films of the abdomen taken every 24 h for 4 days. Pain and bowel habits were also monitored. Seven patients did not complete the study. Cimetropium bromide significantly (P less than 0.01) shortened the whole gut transit time in patients with prolonged transit time (80.8 +/- 4.0 h before vs 60.8 +/- 6.7 h after treatment) and improved the global clinical condition significantly compared with placebo (P = 0.029). In patients with a short total intestinal transit time, cimetropium bromide had no effect on whole gut transit time and did not significantly improve symptoms. The results of this study indicate that oral cimetropium bromide is effective both objectively and subjectively in a subgroup of irritable bowel syndrome patients with constipation.