Delayed gastric emptying is common in primary anorexia nervosa. We investigated in 12 patients whether gastric emptying could be accelerated by the prokinetic drug cisapride. Patients were studied on two occasions 1 wk apart and received, under random double-blind conditions, 8 mg of cisapride and placebo intravenously. Gastric emptying of an isotopically labeled semisolid meal and antral motor activity were measured using a dual-headed gamma-camera for 50 min. Emptying was significantly slower (half-emptying time, 50-191 min; median, 121 min) than in 24 healthy volunteers (half-emptying times, 21-119 min; median, 47 min). Cisapride accelerated emptying significantly (p less than 0.001; half-emptying time after cisapride, 22-80 min; median, 42 min). Antral contraction amplitude increased and contraction frequency decreased significantly (p less than 0.001), whereas the propagation velocity of contractions remained unchanged. We concluded that intravenous cisapride accelerates gastric emptying and increases antral contraction amplitude in patients with anorexia nervosa. Whether or not these effects can prove beneficial in diminishing the patients' symptoms and in helping them to gain weight can only be answered from studies involving long-term treatment with cisapride.