Preservation injury to bile ducts is a serious problem in liver transplantation, especially when preservation exceeds 12 hours. The authors hypothesized that the injury was caused by contact of bile ducts with bile salts during cold preservation and might be preventable by infusion of more hydrophilic bile salts. Swine livers were harvested after intraportal infusions of saline (control), of the hydrophobic bile salt taurodeoxycholate, or of the hydrophilic bile salts tauroursodeoxycholate or dehydrocholate. The effect of infusing a combination of hydrophilic and hydrophobic bile acids was also studied. Bile samples were taken before and during the infusions. Then livers were perfused with UW solution, ducts were flushed retrograde with UW, and livers were stored at 0 to 1°C for 20 hours. Bile ducts were harvested after preservation, and coded microscopic slides of the specimens were examined by light microscopy. There was large variability in baseline bile salt concentration. Injury after preservation consisted of sloughing and pyknosis of surface and glandular epithelium. The histologic injury score determined after preservation was directly related to bile salt concentration in bile ducts at the time of flushing. During bile salt infusions, the infused bile salt replaced most or all of the other bile salts present in bile. Severe postpreservation injury of intrahepatic ducts occurred after taurodeoxycholate infusions, but injury was minimal when either of the two hydrophilic bile salts was infused. The mixture of bile acids produced intermediate results. Retrograde flushing with UW does not prevent injury to intrahepatic ducts. The authors conclude that the injury is caused by contact with bile salts, is dependent on bile salt concentration and composition, and is preventable.