The appearance of sulfapyridine in plasma after oral administration of salicylazosulfapyridine (SASP) was evaluated as a method for defining arrival time in the cecum, an index of small bowel transit. After direct instillation of SASP and lactulose into the cecum, the appearances of their metabolites (sulfapyridine in plasma and hydrogen in breath) were rapid (1-10 min) and simultaneous. When a mixture of SASP and lactulose was taken by mouth, times of the respective "signals" varied among individuals from 40 to 180 min (n = 8) but were correlated within individuals. Salicylazosulfapyridine transit times from duodenum to cecum were also very similar to simultaneous measurements of transit by scintigraphic monitoring of technetium 99m. Timing of the sulfapyridine signal corresponded to the arrival of 5%-13% of technetium 99m DTPA in the cecum. Exemplifying the use of this new technique, simultaneous administration of lactulose into the stomach and SASP into the duodenum yielded consistently longer stomach-to-cecum than duodenum-to-cecum transits, attributable to the delay caused by gastric emptying. Therapeutic doses of morphine delayed small bowel transit of SASP. Transit of SASP offers a second marker technique for the cecal arrival of the "head" of a bolus; the approach may be useful as an inexpensive, noninvasive measurement of transit.