We studied the acute effects of ketanserin, a serotonin S2 antagonist, on systemic and splanchnic hemodynamics in 11 patients with cirrhosis. Mean arterial pressure decreased moderately but significantly after ketanserin. This effect was maximal at 5 min and correlated to the severity of cirrhosis. Cardiac index and systemic vascular resistance were not significantly changed. The hepatic venous pressure gradient, used as an index of portal pressure, significantly decreased after ketanserin (-23%). Azygos blood flow, a reflection of superior portosystemic collateral blood flow, also significantly decreased (-26%), but this effect was delayed, progressive and not correlated to the arterial pressure decrease. Hepatic blood flow was unchanged. These findings suggest that the systemic and splanchnic circulations may be hypersensitive to ketanserin in cirrhotic patients, and that serotonergic mechanisms may contribute to maintain portal hypertension. New specific antiserotonergic drugs deserve further evaluation for potential therapeutic implications in portal hypertension.