Over a three-year period, 281 fiberoptic bronchoalveolar lavage procedures were performed on 119 individuals with interstitial lung disease and 22 normal volunteers. There were no major complications. Less than 5 percent of the procedures were associated with minor complications including (2.5 percent), pneumonitis (0.4 percent), bleeding (0.7 percent) and bronchospasm (0.7 percent); none of these complications required therapy. Those individuals developing complications had a wide range of physiologic findings; functional tests could not predict which subjects were more likely to develop minor complications associated with lavage. These findings suggest that bronchoalveolar lavage for interstitial disease is a safe procedure associated with minor risks.