A nebulization catheter technique (AeroProbe) was adapted and evaluated as a new approach for pulmonary delivery of defined aerosol doses to the rat lung. The lung distribution profile was evaluated by dosing Evans blue and Nile blue dye, respectively, to isolated and perfused rat lungs (IPL) and to the lungs of anesthetized and tracheal-intubated rats. The intratracheal aerosol dosing was synchronized with the inspiration of the lungs. Immediately after dosing, the lungs were dissected into upper- and lower trachea, bronchi, and parenchyma. The dye was then extracted from the tissue samples to determine the regional distribution and the recovery of the aerosol dose in the lungs. The droplet-size distribution and the weight of the delivered aerosol dose were analyzed with laser diffraction and gravimetric analysis respectively. The recovery of the delivered dose was high, 99 +/- 12 and 105 +/- 1%, respectively, in the in vivo administrations and IPL-experiments. The lung distribution profile after aerosol dosing to anesthetized rats was mainly tracheobronchial. Only 12 +/- 4% of the dose was recovered in the lung parenchyma. However, after aerosol dosing to the IPL, 38 +/- 11% of the dose was distributed to the lung parenchyma. At the settings used, the nebulization catheter aerosolized 1-2 microL of liquid per puff using 1-1.5 mL of air. The droplet-size distribution of the generated aerosols was broad (2-8% <3 microm; 10% <4-7 microm; 50% <10-15 microm; and 90% <20-40 microm). The nebulization catheter technique provides a complement to existing methodology for pulmonary drug delivery in small animals. With this new technique, defined aerosol doses can be delivered into the lungs of rats with no need for aerosol dosimetry.