The effect of chronically elevated blood flow on the development of atherosclerosis in miniature swine was studied. Fistulas connecting the right external iliac artery and vein were surgically created in four swine, while three were not fistulated. Pulsed Doppler velocity detection cuffs placed around the abdominal aorta and both iliac arteries of all pigs permitted chronic measurements of blood velocity, blood velocity distributions, and blood flow. All swine were fed an atherogenic diet consisting of 20% beef tallow, 3% cholesterol, and 5% cholic acid for 6 months. This diet elevated the serum cholesterol to values exceeding 500 mg/100 ml. Creation of the arteriovenous fistula (AVF) markedly elevated blood velocity and flow in the abdominal aorta and in the shunted iliac artery. In the shunted animals the aortic blood flow was 42.1 +/- 2.0 ml/sec compared with 17.3 +/- 1.4 ml/sec in the unshunted swine. The velocity distribution pattern across the vessel was also indicative of an elevated wall shear stress. After 6 months, the animals were killed and the arterial vessels examined macroscopically and microscopically for the presence of atherosclerotic lesions. In the shunted pigs, 17 +/- 15% of the lumenal surface was occupied by sudanophilic lesions, whereas 80 +/- 8% of the surface was covered by lesions in the unshunted (control) pigs. From these studies, it is apparent that mechanical factors related to blood flow rates can influence the development of atherosclerotic lesions in swine.