The action of lipoprotein lipase on triglyceride-rich lipoproteins generates fatty acids that are either transported into tissues or mix with circulating free fatty acids (FFAs) via a process known as spillover. In the present study, arterial, portal vein, and hepatic vein sampling catheters were surgically placed in nine mongrel dogs. The animals were subsequently studied after a 42-h fast during infusion of [14C]oleate and a lipid emulsion containing [3H]triolein; the emulsion was used as a surrogate for the study of chylomicron metabolism. More than one-half of splanchnic [3H]triglyceride uptake occurred in the liver, and substantial fractional spillover of [3H]oleate was observed in both liver and nonhepatic tissues (approximately 50% each). There was a significant correlation between FFA release from nonhepatic tissues (presumably visceral fat) and nonhepatic fractional spillover (R = 0.81, P < 0.01), consistent with a model in which the rate of intracellular lipolysis influences spillover by determining the direction of net fatty acid flow between the cell and the interstitium. There was a significant correlation between "true" and "net" splanchnic spillover (R = 0.84, P < 0.005), the latter representing calculation of spillover between arterial and hepatic venous blood without portal venous data. Metabolism of chylomicron triglycerides in visceral fat may be an important source of portal venous FFAs.