To prevent infection in 40 patients who underwent vaginal or abdominal hysterectomy, each patient received a single 15-mg/kg dose of either cefoxitin or cefamandole by rapid (5-minute) intravenous injection before the operation. Samples of serum, myometrium, endometrium, ovaries, and tubes were obtained at various intervals after injection of the antibiotic and were assayed for cephalosporin concentration. Maximum tissue concentrations of 30 micrograms/g of both drugs were detected approximately 30 minutes after the dose, with levels dropping below 3 micrograms/g in approximately 2 hours. Although both antibiotics achieved closely similar concentrations in serum and tissues, the ratios of these levels to their usual mean minimum inhibitory concentrations for Bacteroides fragilis were appreciably higher for cefoxitin than for cefamandole. These pharmacokinetic observations support the current dosage recommendations for the use of cefoxitin in treating and preventing gynecologic infections, as well as the recommendation that it be administered shortly before the operation to maximize tissue levels during the perioperative period.