Five isolated rabbit livers were in vitro perfused over a 3-hour period. After addition of 10 mg of cefotiam to the circulating blood, a biliary peak concentration of 76.2 +/- 14.2 micrograms/ml (mean +/- SEM) was reached between the 90th and 120th min; 3.1 +/- 0.4% of the dose given was excreted in the bile during the 3-hour period. In 10 recently cholecystectomized patients provided with a T-tube drain, 1 g of cefotiam was given intravenously. A biliary peak concentration of 340 +/- 81 micrograms/ml was observed 2 h later. 1.8 +/- 0.7% of the administered dose was recovered in the bile during the 12-hour period. In 5 clinically normal subjects given intravenously 1 g of cefotiam, 0.5 +/- 0.2% of the administered dose was found in the duodenal fluid aspirated over a 4-hour period. Cefotiam concentrations measured in choledochal and gallbladder bile collected simultaneously during operation 1 h after intravenous administration of 1 g of the drug to 10 patients were 502 +/- 102 micrograms/ml and 143 +/- 39 micrograms/ml, respectively; they exceeded significantly the concentration determined in the serum sampled at the same time (17.9 +/- 2.6 micrograms/ml). The biliary parameters of cefotiam were compared with those of 14 other beta-lactam antibiotics previously studied by the same procedure. The results of the present study are consistent with a possible beneficial effect of cefotiam in the treatment of biliary tract infections.