The Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare Research Committee on Aberrant Portal Blood Flow carried out an epidemiological survey and clinical study on Budd-Chiari syndrome in 1990. In the primary survey for determining the prevalence of the disease, a questionnaire was sent to all major hospitals throughout Japan and 160 cases seen in 1989 were compiled. More epidemiological details were obtained in 87 of these 160 cases. The number of patients with Budd-Chiari syndrome in this country was estimated to be about 300 (prevalence of 2.4/million) with about 20 new cases occurring every year. In the clinical study, 157 authentic cases of Budd-Chiari syndrome studied in 15 years (1975-89) were analyzed. There were 87 males (average age, 36.4 years) and 70 females (46.5 years), and the average period from the likely onset to the first medical consultation was 6.6 years, suggesting that these patients were mostly chronic cases. The main clinical features were hepatomegaly, leg edema, ascites and venous dilatation over the trunk. Abdominal pain was recorded in only four (2.5%). There were 16 (10.2%) with known identifiable etiologies. Of the patients 93% showed an obstructing lesion of various thickness in the hepatic portion of the inferior vena cava. Only nine (5.7%) had hepatic vein obstruction without caval lesions. Thus, the majority of Budd-Chiari syndrome patients in Japan are idiopathic, having an obstructing lesion in the inferior vena cava. The main causes of 33 deaths (21%) were liver failure, variceal bleeding and hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatocellular carcinoma occurred in 10 (6.4%) in the 15-year period. However, the incidence of Budd-Chiari syndrome among all cases of hepatocellular carcinoma was less than 1% in the survey made by the Liver Cancer Study Group of Japan.