In patients with liver cirrhosis Doppler ultrasound often detects absence of the retrograde (hepatopetal) flow phase in the hepatic vein, suggestive of an increased stiffness of the liver parenchyma around the vein. This is rarely or never reported in healthy control persons. We examined the frequency of absent retrograde flow in a consecutive series of 139 patients referred for abdominal ultrasound. We used state-of-the-art ultrasound scanners, and placed the Doppler gate so that in non-forced end-expiration it would sample the right hepatic vein 4-6 cm from the vena cava. There was no association between the hepatic vein flow pattern and age, sex or body mass index. 43 of 139 studied patients showed absent retrograde flow. Review of the case records revealed liver disease in 26 patients and no sign of liver disease in 17 patients. We suggest that absent retrograde flow in the hepatic veins may be seen not only in patients with overt liver disease but also in apparently liver-healthy patients.