Portal vein pressure and wedged hepatic vein pressure were measured simultaneously in 21 patients with hepatitis B-related cirrhosis of the liver and were compared to pressure measured in six patients with idiopathic portal hypertension. No significant difference in the portal venous pressure gradient was found between patients with cirrhosis and those with idiopathic portal hypertension (17.3 +/- 4.3 mmHg (mean +/- S.D.) vs. 19.7 +/- 3.1 mmHg, P greater than 0.05). However, the difference between the portal and the hepatic venous pressure gradient was significantly smaller in patients with cirrhosis than in idiopathic portal hypertension patients (1.3 +/- 1.7 vs. 10.8 +/- 2.1 mmHg, P less than 0.001). An excellent correlation was found between portal vein pressure and wedged hepatic vein pressure in hepatitis B-related cirrhosis (r = 0.94, P less than 0.001). There was no linear relationship between the portal venous pressure gradient and varix size or bleeding episodes. We concluded that a close agreement existed between portal vein pressure and wedged hepatic vein pressure in hepatitis B-related liver cirrhosis. Therefore, measurement of wedged hepatic vein pressure reliably reflects portal vein pressure in these patients.