The mechanisms by which intermittent positive-pressure ventilation with high inflation pressure (HIPPV) induces pulmonary edema remain uncertain. In this study we investigated the physiologic and anatomic changes related to HIPPV at 45 cmH2O peak inspiratory pressure in rats. Edema was quantified by the extravascular lung water obtained from postmortem weighing and by 22Na distribution space. Pulmonary microvascular permeability was assessed by dry lung weight and fractional albumin uptake. After only 5 min of HIPPV, there was a significant increase in Na space, dry lung weight, and fractional albumin uptake when compared with that in control rats mechanically ventilated at 7 cmH2O peak inspiratory pressure. These changes suggest that edema may be due at least in part to alterations in microvascular permeability. Moderate peribronchovascular edema was present. At the ultrastructural level, some endothelial cells were found detached from their basement membrane. This lesion has been previously described in other types of pulmonary microvascular injury. The above findings remained almost unchanged after 10 min of HIPPV. After 20 min of HIPPV, we observed the outpouring of a high protein content alveolar flooding accompanied by a further significant increase in fractional albumin uptake and dry lung weight. Additional anatomic damage appeared including epithelial lesions and hyaline membranes. Thus, HIPPV edema presents all the features of high permeability edema. These results may be of concern in the ventilatory management of patients with acute respiratory failure in order to avoid additional damages induced by local overinflation.