Inspired air humidification has been reported to show some benefit in bronchiectatic patients. We have investigated the possibility that one effect might be to enhance mucociliary clearance. Such enhancement might, if it occurs, help to lessen the risks of recurrent infective episodes. Using a radioaerosol technique, we measured lung mucociliary clearance before and after 7 days of domiciliary humidification. Patients inhaled high flow saturated air at 37 degrees C via a patient-operated humidification nasal inhalation system for 3 h per day. We assessed tracheobronchial mucociliary clearance from the retention of (99m)Tc-labelled polystyrene tracer particles monitored for 6 h, with a follow-up 24-h reading. Ten out of 14 initially recruited patients (age 37-75 years; seven females) completed the study (two withdrew after their initial screening and two prior to the initial clearance test). Seven patients studied were non-smokers; three were ex-smokers (1-9 pack-years). Initial tracer radioaerosol distribution was closely similar between pre- and post-treatment. Following humidification, lung mucociliary clearance significantly improved, the area under the tracheobronchial retention curve decreased from 319 +/- 50 to 271 +/- 46%h (p < 0.07). Warm air humidification treatment improved lung mucociliary clearance in our bronchiectatic patients. Given this finding plus increasing laboratory and clinical interest in humidification mechanisms and effects, we believe further clinical trials of humidification therapy are desirable, coupled with analysis of humidification effects on mucus properties and transport.