One hundred seven acutely ill ventilated patients were prospectively studied to ascertain the severity and frequency of alterations in gas exchange and hemodynamic parameters during brief bronchoscopy. Sedation was performed using midazolam (0.1 mg/kg IV) without topical anesthesia. An average decline in PaO2 of 26 percent was observed at the end of the procedure, compared to the baseline value, and this was associated with a mild increase in PaCO2 in spite of the use of a special adapter. Alterations in mean systolic blood pressure appeared to be modest, consisting of a 10 percent decrease from the control level, related to sedation, and a 10 percent rise from baseline during the procedure, associated with a concomitant mild tachycardia. At that time, central hemodynamic measurements performed in a subset of 31 patients showed a significant increase in cardiac output associated with higher pulmonary wedge pressure. Fourteen patients developed hypoxemia of less than 60 mm Hg on FIO2 adjusted to 0.8. Of the ten risk factors univariately associated with hypoxemia, only the presence of ARDS (p less than 0.001) and "fighting" the ventilator during the procedure (p less than 0.05) remained significant after stepwise logistic regression. Attempts to prevent hypoxemia in critically ill patients should focus on inducing complete sedation, with careful attention to hemodynamic status, or providing maximal levels of oxygen to the ventilator (or both).