Intestinal permeability in adults with inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases was investigated by measuring the 24-h urinary excretion of orally administered 51Cr-EDTA. Eighty controls along with 100 patients with Crohn's disease, 46 patients with ulcerative colitis, 20 patients with gluten-sensitive enteropathy, and 18 patients with other diseases were studied. In controls, the median 24-h excretion was 1.34%/24 h of the oral dose. Patients with Crohn's disease (median 2.96%/24 h), ulcerative colitis (median 2.12%/24 h), and untreated gluten-sensitive enteropathy (median 3.56%/24 h) had significantly elevated urinary excretion of the probe compared to controls (p less than 0.0001). Increased 24-h urinary excretion of 51Cr-EDTA had a high association with intestinal inflammation (p less than 0.0001). Test specificity and sensitivity were 96% and 57%, respectively. A positive test has a 96% probability of correctly diagnosing the presence of intestinal inflammation, whereas a negative test has a 50% probability of predicting the absence of disease.