Tissue fluid and plasma oncotic pressure levels were measured in an unselected group of 13 patients presenting with congestive heart failure. Patients had a mean serum albumin of 3.6 g/dl ± (SD) 0.35; serum oncotic pressure was 22.23 ± 1.8 mm Hg; tissue fluid (lower leg) oncotic pressure was 0.985 ± 0.34 mm Hg. The oncotic pressure gradient between plasma and tissue fluid was 21.25 Hg ± 1.7. This is about 10 mm Hg greater than △π in normal man. The high value in congestive heart failure is a mechanism to protect against the formation of edema. The possible mechanisms responsible for the formation of edema in congestive heart failure are discussed.