Between 1979 and 1983, 50 patients were treated by endoscopic sphincterotomy for disabling biliary-type pain after cholecystectomy. Forty-six patients were seen at regular intervals for at least 12 months after the procedure and of these, pain resolved in six (13%), decreased in severity and/or frequency in 22 (48%), and continued unchanged in 18 (39%). Patients with bile duct dilation on a retrograde cholangiogram had a similar outcome to those with a bile duct of normal caliber. Twenty-five patients had a morphine-neostigmine test and endoscopic manometry of the sphincter of Oddi prior to the procedure, and the outcome appeared to be independent of results from these investigations. Subgroups of patients who benefit from sphincterotomy will be determined only by prospective studies in which criteria for inclusion are carefully defined so as to avoid heterogeneity within study groups.