Respimat Soft Mist Inhaler (SMI) is a new-generation inhaler that offers improved lung deposition compared with chlorofluorocarbon metered dose inhalers (CFC-MDIs). Bronchodilators administered via Respimat SMI are preserved and stabilised with low concentrations of benzalkonium chloride and ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid, both of which have been reported to cause dose-related paradoxical bronchoconstriction. The aim of this analysis was to compare the incidence of paradoxical bronchoconstriction after chronic use of bronchodilators via Respimat SMI and CFC-MDI. Data from three clinical trials, in which patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) received ipratropium bromide alone or in combination with fenoterol hydrobromide, or placebo via Respimat SMI or CFC-MDI for 12 weeks, were included in the analysis. In order to evaluate the risk of paradoxical bronchoconstriction, we identified four respiratory events that might have occurred within 30 min of inhalation on four test days; these were: 'bronchospasm', 'other respiratory adverse events', 'rescue medication use' and 'asymptomatic drop in FEV(1) 15% from baseline'. In total, 631 asthma and 1538 COPD patients participated in the three studies. No occurrences of bronchospasm were reported with Respimat SMI on any test day. Overall, the incidence of respiratory events possibly indicative of paradoxical bronchoconstriction was low and similar for both devices. There was no increase in the incidence of events during 12 weeks' treatment. Delivery of bronchodilators by Respimat SMI is safe with regard to paradoxical bronchoconstriction during chronic use in patients with asthma or COPD.