Microscopic polyangiitis (MPA) is a systemic small-vessel vasculitis primarily associated with necrotizing glomerulonephritis and pulmonary capillaritis. In this retrospective study of 29 patients with MPA and alveolar hemorrhage (AH), we characterized the pulmonary manifestations at presentation and assessed the short- and long-term outcome. AH was diagnosed when bronchoalveolar lavage was macroscopically bloody, or contained hemosiderin-laden macrophages, in the absence of lung infection or pulmonary edema. MPA was diagnosed when AH was associated with focal segmental necrotizing glomerulonephritis at kidney biopsy or pathologically proved small-vessel vasculitis. There were 17 women and 12 men, with a mean age of 55.8 +/- 16.7 years. The onset was rapidly progressive, but in 8 (28%) patients, symptoms preceded the diagnosis for more than 1 year. The most constant systemic findings associated with AH were glomerulonephritis in 28 (97%) patients; fever (62%); myalgia and arthralgia (52%); weight loss (45%); ear, nose, and throat symptoms (31%); and skin involvement (17%). Lung opacities were bilateral in 26 (90%) patients, most frequently involving the lower part of the lungs. Bronchoalveolar lavage, performed in 27 patients, was hemorrhagic in 25 (93%), and contained numerous siderophages in others. Most patients were severely anemic (mean hemoglobin, 8.1 +/- 1.8 g/dL). ANCA, present in 27 (93%) patients, gave a perinuclear (14), cytoplasmic (11), or mixed (1) pattern. Mean serum creatinine level was 407 +/- 415 mumol/L. Renal biopsy confirmed the presence of necrotizing glomerulonephritis in 27 patients. Patients were treated with corticosteroids (100%), cyclophosphamide (79%), plasmapheresis (24%), dialysis (28%), and mechanical ventilation (10%). The overall mortality rate was 31% (9 patients). Deaths were related to vasculitis (5 patients) or side effects of treatment (4). Deaths were more frequent in aged or mechanically ventilated patients. The 5-year survival rate was 68%. The recovery of respiratory function among survivors was clinically considered complete in 20 (69%) patients. However, 7 patients (24%) had persistent alterations on pulmonary function tests. Of the 11 patients who had relapses, 2 died from AH.