We have reviewed the alveolar hemorrhage (AH) syndromes, defined as immune or idiopathic disorders associated with diffuse microvascular hemorrhage into the acinar portion of the lung. The disorders that are most often associated with AH include antibasement membrane antibodies (ABMA) disease, idiopathic pulmonary hemosiderosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, systemic vasculitides, and idiopathic rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis. An approach to the recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of the AH syndromes has been outlined and several illustrative case studies have been presented. Recognition of AH is not usually difficult, but does require a high index of suspicion, since many disease processes may give rise to hemoptysis with infiltrates on chest roentgenogram. Recognition of AH is aided by careful clinical and laboratory assessment for evidence of extrapulmonary disease; simple hematologic studies such as sequential hemoglobins and iron studies; and measurement of carbon monoxide uptake by the lungs. Early recognition of AH may decrease the likelihood of respiratory failure and end-stage renal disease. The specific etiology of AH is usually determined by clinical examination, serologic assay for ABMA, and percutaneous renal biopsy by immunofluorescence. Open-lung biopsy is required in a minority of cases. High-dose pulse methylprednisolone appears to effectively control AH of diverse etiology. Combined plasma exchange and immunosuppression controls AH in ABMA disease and is the treatment of choice in this disorder. Cyclophosphamide is used for Wegener's granulomatosis, and sometimes in systemic necrotizing vasculitis, in an attempt to prevent irreversible damage to the kidneys.