To investigate permeability alterations of the macroscopically normal jejunum in Crohn's disease, the permeation of two probes was measured during perfusion of an isolated jejunal segment. The data were compared with the results obtained by the standard per oral test in the same patients. Test probes were PEG-400 and [51Cr]EDTA. Ten normal individuals, 12 patients with Crohn's ileitis or ileocolitis, and seven patients with isolated Crohn's colitis all with normal jejunum on x-ray series were studied. Upon perfusion of the proximal small bowel, the 3-hr [51Cr]EDTA excretion was significantly increased in ileitis patients (P = 0.023) as compared to normals. The excretion exceeded the highest value of normals in eight of 12 ileitis patients. The excretion in Crohn's colitis patients was not significantly increased (P = 0.24) and abnormal excretion was found only in one of the Crohn's colitis patients. PEG-400 permeation during perfusion did not differentiate between the groups, but five of the seven patients with isolated Crohn's colitis had PEG-400 excretion exceeding the highest value in normals. Overall, 13 of the 19 patients had increased permeation of one of the two probes through jejunal mucosa during perfusion. These data suggest that the permeability is increased in the majority of patients even in segments that seem normal on x-ray.