The measurement of gastric intramucosal pH (pHi) has been advocated to assist in decision-making for critically ill patients. To assess whether the information obtained from the measurement of pHi can be obtained from other measurements of metabolic acidosis, we studied 20 consecutive patients admitted to the intensive care unit. A mean of eight (range two to fourteen) data sets per patient were obtained, comprising measurement of arterial pH, pO2, pCO2, and oxygen saturation, tonometer balloon fluid pCO2, arterial pressures, and cardiac output. Bicarbonate concentration, base deficit or excess in blood and extracellular fluid, and pHi were calculated from these measurements. Relations between the variables and pHi were assessed by within-subject correlation comparisons. There were significant correlations (r > 0.6, p < 0.001) between markers of metabolic acidosis (base deficit in blood and extracellular fluid and bicarbonate concentration) and pHi. A blood base deficit of -4.65 or less and an extracellular-fluid base deficit of -6.13 or less could estimate pHi below 7.32 (lower limit of normal range) with sensitivity of at least 77% and specificity of at least 96%. There was no patient in whom either pHi or blood base deficit consistently reflected acidosis when the other variable did not. We conclude that the information that is obtained by gastric tonometry for pHi can be obtained more simply from measurements of metabolic acidosis; these variables can be calculated from routinely available blood-gas measurements.