In this report, the authors present the results of 34 estimates of pulmonary capillary pressure (Pcap) in 15 adult patients receiving intensive care for acute respiratory failure (ARF). Within the pulmonary artery pressure profile during transient balloon occlusion, the authors identified two exponential pressure decay components-the slower one representing the discharge of the pulmonary capillary pressure through the pulmonary venous resistance. By extrapolating this exponential to its origin at the moment of pulmonary artery occlusion, a pressure within the pulmonary vascular bed which approximates pulmonary capillary pressure (Pcap) was identified. Pcap, and not the pulmonary artery occlusion pressure (PAOP), is the major driving pressure forcing fluid from the pulmonary microvasculature. The results indicate that a discrete value for pulmonary capillary pressure can be reproducibly measured in paralyzed ventilated patients. The data report that mean pulmonary artery pressure, pulmonary capillary pressure, and total pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR) are increased in acute respiratory failure, but there is considerable variation in the distribution of pulmonary vascular resistance between the arterial and venous beds. The data suggest that there is unequal and variable partitioning of the increased PVR during acute respiratory failure. Bedside pressure profile Pcap measurements will allow optimum reduction of Pcap during ARF by infusing vasoactive agents to modify the distribution of PVR or reducing the PAOP.