Theophylline disposition was examined in 14 obese subjects and 57 normal subjects. A single oral dose of aminophylline solution was given and serum and saliva samples were collected over several hours and assayed by high-pressure liquid chromatography. The apparent volume of distribution (Vd) and body clearance (ClB) were analyzed for total body weight (TBW) and ideal body weight (IBW). The Vd averaged 0.482 (SD = 0.084) L/kg TBW in normals vs 0.382 (0.069) L/kg TBW and 0.77 (0.189) L/kg IBW in obese subjects. The ClB averaged 63.0 (28.5) ml/hr/kg IBW in normals compared to 32.8 (11.1) ml/hr/kg TBW and 64.1 (20.8) ml/hr/kg IBW in obese subjects. Similar Vd values between the two groups when TBW is used indicates that loading dose is best calculated based on TBW. Similar ClB based on IBW in normal and obese subjects indicates that IBW should be used to calculate maintenance doses for theophylline. Mean half-lives were longer in obese subjects than in normals, 8.6 (2.0) and 6.0 (2.1) hr, respectively, suggesting that obese patients may need less frequent dosing.