To study the effects of intra- and extrahepatic portal-systemic shunts on insulin degradation, 11 patients with liver cirrhosis and 7 noncirrhotic patients with liver disease were studied with percutaneous transhepatic catheterization. Insulin levels in portal and peripheral blood were measured simultaneously for 1-2 hr after intravenous administration of glucose. The degrees of intra- and extrahepatic portal-systemic shunting were measured with this technique using 131I-macroaggregated albumin and 99mTc-macroaggregated albumin. The amount of insulin secreted and insulin degraded were assessed from the areas under blood concentration curves for portal and peripheral blood. Insulin degradation was significantly reduced in cirrhotics compared to noncirrhotics with liver disease, although there was no difference in the amount of insulin secreted between these two groups. It was also correlated significantly with the degree of intrahepatic shunting but not with the degree of extrahepatic shunting. These results suggest that intrahepatic shunting plays an important role in the reduction of insulin degradation in cirrhosis.