Metabolic bone disease, particularly osteoporosis, is a complication of advanced primary biliary cirrhosis, but the extent of the problem is unclear. We present 33 patients who were investigated for bone disease at the time of diagnosis of their liver disease and who had received no prior treatment likely to influence their bones. Iliac crest bone biopsy showed no patient with osteoporosis, and mild osteomalacic changes in 1 patient. Slight elevations in appositional rate, osteoid volume, and resorption surface were compatible with a state of high bone turnover. Photon absorptiometry revealed a low forearm bone mineral content in 3 of 25 patients, calcium absorption was below normal in 14 of 24 patients, and there was evidence of fat malabsorption in 11 of 25 patients. Five patients also had low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Thus, little evidence of significant metabolic bone disease was found in this group by these methods, but abnormalities were seen, such as poor calcium absorption, that may predispose to its later development.