Increased hydrostatic pressure in solid tumor nodules decreases the penetration of chemotherapy into cancerous tissue. This is true for both i.v. and i.p. chemotherapy. The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of increasing intra-abdominal pressures on the pharmacokinetics and tissue distribution of doxorubicin administered i.p. Four groups of 10 Sprague Dawley rats were given i.p. doxorubicin (4 mg/kg) during 60 min combined with no pressure (control), 10, 20 and 30 mm Hg pressures. During the course of i.p. chemotherapy, peritoneal fluid and blood were sampled. Two other groups of 10 rats received the same dose of i.p. doxorubicin during 10 min combined with no pressure and 30 mm Hg pressure. At the end of experiments animals were sacrificed and tissue samples were collected. Doxorubicin concentrations in peritoneal fluid, plasma and tissues were determined by HPLC. Pharmacokinetic studies showed that increased intra-abdominal pressures of 10, 20 and 30 mm Hg did not alter peritoneal fluid AUCs, the plasma AUCs and the peak ratios of i.p. doxorubicin when compared to the control group (no pressure). A subset analysis of high intra-abdominal pressure groups (20 and 30 mm Hg) versus control group showed statistically significant differences in peritoneal fluid AUCs, plasma AUCs and AUC (peritoneal fluid/plasma) ratios. For all groups, the highest tissue concentrations of doxorubicin were found in tissues associated with the parietal peritoneum: the bladder, the abdominal wall and the diaphragm. After 10 min of i.p. chemotherapy, the group treated with 30 mm Hg pressure showed a significant increase of doxorubicin concentrations in these tissues as compared to the control group. This significant increase of tissue doxorubicin concentrations was not found after 60 min of pressure with i.p. chemotherapy; prolonged intra-abdominal pressure was associated with a high incidence of intestinal ischemia. In conclusion, intra-abdominal pressure of 20 and 30 mm Hg significantly decreased the AUC ratios of i.p. doxorubicin but concomitantly increased tissue uptake of doxorubicin in bladder, diaphragm and abdominal wall during the first 10 min of i.p. administration. These findings may have significance in the design of improved strategies to increase tissue concentrations of chemotherapy delivered by an i.p. route.