The ability to breathe spontaneously through an endotracheal tube is a usual prerequisite before an intubated patient can have it removed. Other researchers have measured air flow resistance through endotracheal tubes. In this study, we evaluated work of breathing in joules per min and tension-time index while three normal volunteers breathed through different sized endotracheal tubes. Four 27.5-cm endotracheal tubes were used. Subjects breathed with a constant tidal volume of 500 ml. By increasing respiratory frequency, minute ventilation was increased from 5 to 30 L/min. As tube diameter decreased, work and the tension-time index increased. Changes were magnified at higher minute ventilations through the 6- and 7-mm endotracheal tubes, and the tension-time index critical fatigue level of 0.15 was approached or exceeded.