1. The structural integrities of various preparations of rat small intestine for the study of absorption in vitro have been compared after incubation or perfusion.
2. Perfused intestines removed from anaesthetized rats, and thus never deprived of a supply of oxygen, maintain their structural integrity even after perfusion for 1 h provided that a Krebs–Henseleit bicarbonate perfusate is used. However, intestines removed from freshly killed rats show severe villus disruption and oedema after perfusion for only 20 min.
3. Extensive damage to both crypts and villi is observed in everted sacs of small intestine incubated for 20 min, regardless of the buffer system used. Intestinal rings show damage at the tips of the villi after incubation for 2 min, but otherwise remain morphologically intact; this damage is progressive with time.
4. It is concluded that the exact mode of preparation of intestinal tissue is critical for preservation of structural and functional integrity and that this is especially important in quantitative studies on transport processes. Further, it is recommended that routine monitoring of the integrity of intestinal preparations in vitro is desirable and that histological assessment is an appropriate technique.