To assess the effects of endotracheal intubation on normal cough function, the tracheas of eight healthy volunteers were intubated with a standard 8.0-mm-I.D. tube. Measurements were made of expiratory flow, transpulmonary pressure, and expired volume during a cycle of three successive bursts of maximum voluntary coughing initiated after inspiration to total lung capacity. Results following intubation were compared with findings with subjects breathing through a 25-mm-I.D. mouthpiece (control). Maximum cough pressures (Pmax) following tracheal intubation were similar to control values, but with the tube in place, airflow began well before Pmax was reached and did not cease fully between cough bursts. Flows at Pmax declined with each successive burst of coughing during both experimental conditions, but with tracheal intubation, the flows were significantly lower than control. Resistance to flow at Pmax increased with each successive cough and increased significantly above control during the third burst of coughing while the subjects' tracheas were intubated. The total volume of the three control coughs was 76 +/- 3 per cent of vital capacity. This was similar following intubation, although cough duration was significantly longer. These findings indicate that tracheal intubation does not impair ability to develop normal cough pressures despite preventing glottic closure. The normal timing of flow and pressure is disrupted such that flow occurs early--as in a forced expiratory maneuver, and the flow is not fully interrupted during the cough sequence. Flows are submaximal as a result of the resistance of the tube and continue to decline as the lung volume decreases and airways are compressed. Because the tube is noncollapsible, high flow rates may be necessary to achieve the linear velocities requireed for normal airway cleansing through the tube. Such flows may be achieved only during the initial cough after full inspiration.