To determine whether intense, prolonged activity can induce transient pulmonary edema, eight highly trained male cyclists (mean +/- S.D.: age, 26.9 +/- 3.0 years; height, 179.9 +/- 5.7 cm; weight, 76.1 +/- 6.5 kg) performed a 45-min endurance cycle test (ECT). V(O2,max) was determined (4.84 +/- 0.4 L min(-1), 63.7 +/- 2.6 ml min(-1) g(-1)) and the intensity of exercise for the ECT was set at 10% below ventilatory threshold (approximately 76% V(O2, max) 300 +/- 25 W). Pre- and post-exercise pulmonary diffusion (DL(CO)) measurements and magnetic resonance imaging of the lung were made. DL(CO) and pulmonary capillary blood volume (VC) decreased 1h post-exercise by 12% (P = 0.004) and 21% (P = 0.017), respectively, but no significant change in membrane diffusing capacity (DM) was found. The magnetic resonance scans demonstrated a 9.4% increase (P = 0.043) in pulmonary extravascular water 90 min post-exercise. These data support the theory that high intensity, sustained exercise in well-trained athletes can result in transient pulmonary edema.