The study of hepatic encephalopathy is limited by the lack of standardized experimental models to assess behavior. We have shown that rats continuously monitored while running on a wheel show abnormalities of the circadian rhythm of locomotor activity after portacaval anastomosis (PCA), such that entrainment of running activity to the light-dark cycle is severely impaired. To identify factors that affect postoperative circadian behavior, we have performed a multivariable analysis of 69 sham-operated controls and 107 rats after PCA. Our results indicate that shunt stenosis, as determined by the pressure gradient from the splenic pulp to the inferior vena cava, ameliorated the postoperative deterioration of the circadian rhythm. In addition, postoperative behavior was affected by preoperative performance, diet, and gender. Postoperative body weight gain, spleen weight, and liver atrophy did not impact this model. Because shunt stenosis is known to ameliorate hepatic encephalopathy in humans, our findings support the validity of this behavioral end point as a correlate of hepatic encephalopathy. Measurement of the pressure gradient across the anastomosis and achievement of sufficient preoperative entrainment appear critical for the standardization of the model.