A method for analysis of 7 alpha-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one in plasma is described. Following solid-phase extraction/purification the compound is determined by high-performance liquid chromatography using a UV detector. The median concentration in healthy subjects was 12 ng/ml (range 3-40). The levels were lower in diseases associated with a low bile acid production: extrahepatic cholestasis, less than 1.5 ng/ml (range less than 0.9-3); liver cirrhosis less than 1.5 ng/ml (range less than 0.9-38), and higher in diseases associated with a high bile acid production: cholestyramine treatment, 188 ng/ml (range 54-477); ileal resection 397 ng/ml (range 128-750). The levels were essentially normal in patients with colon resection. The results are consistent with a strong positive correlation between the levels of 7 alpha-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one in plasma and the rate of bile acid synthesis.