A new guiding technique, Metras catheter (MC), for blindly introducing a telescoping plugged catheter (TPC) was applied to 25 mechanically ventilated patients with suspected bacterial pneumonia (BPN). Results obtained with TPC-MC were compared with those obtained with TPC using a conventional fiberoptic bronchoscope (FB) in random order. The diagnosis of BPN was definitely confirmed in 18 patients. In 7 patients, all TPC samples (MC and FB) were sterile, and a diagnosis other than BPN was proved. In the former group, colony-forming units equal to or greater than 10(3)/ml of one or more microorganisms were obtained in 61% of TPC-MC and in 66% of TPC-FB samples. These percentages increased to 64 and 71%, respectively, when 4 patients with previous antibiotic treatment were excluded from the study group. Agreement was observed between microorganisms cultured from both TPC samples in 11 of 18 patients with proved BPN (61%). Complete disparity was seen only in 2 patients (11%). Two patients developed a self-limiting hemoptysis after the TPC procedure (MC and FB, respectively). We conclude that TPC-MC is both a sensitive and specific technique for the diagnosis of BPN in mechanically ventilated patients. Because the diagnostic value of TPC-MC is similar to that of TPC-FB, we propose that the MC be used in patients receiving mechanical ventilation when the FB is not available. The simplicity and lower cost of this new system are important advantages to be considered over the fiberoptic bronchoscope.