Blood gas analyses and hepatic blood flow were determined during hepatic vein catheterization in order to establish a possible hypoxic component in alcoholic liver disease. Fifty-six patients (9 non-cirrhotic liver disease, 14 cirrhosis Child-Turcotte class A, 23 class B, 10 class C) and 10 control subjects were studied. Mean hepatic venous oxygen saturation and tension were almost the same in all groups, and hepatic blood flow was inversely correlated to the arteriohepatic venous oxygen difference (r = -0.53, P less than 0.01). Splanchnic oxygen uptake was similar in all groups studied. The arterio-hepatic venous difference of base excess was small and of the same size in all groups, indicating no enhanced production of lactic acid in the liver. Our results do not support the concept that hepatic venous oxygen content is low in alcoholic liver disease and thereby contributes to hypoxic liver damage.