The study objective was to investigate bronchial mucociliary clearance after heart/lung and double lung transplantation. Bronchial mucociliary clearance was measured using a noninvasive radioaerosol technique: 99mTc-labeled albumin was aerosolized using a spinning-top generator (mass median aerodynamic diameter, 7.5 mu; geometric standard deviation, 1.5 mu). Radioactivity counts were acquired during 60 min with a gamma camera. A region of interest was drawn over the right lung delineated by a 133Xe lung ventilation image. Bronchial mucociliary clearance was assessed as the percentage of decrease in radioactivity per hour calculated on time-activity curves fitted by a monoexponential model. To exclude patients with acute lung rejection, opportunistic lung infection, and obliterative bronchiolitis, all patients with transplants underwent pulmonary function tests and bronchoscopic examination before clearance measurement. Eight heart/lung and five double-lung nonsmoking transplant patients with normal lung histology were studied 19.3 +/- 4.0 mo after surgery and compared to nine normal nonsmokers. A similar proximal deposition of the aerosol was obtained in patients with transplants and normal subjects; skew values of distribution histograms of aerosol radioactivity counts were 2.1 +/- 0.2 and 1.8 +/- 0.1, respectively, and the ratios between central and peripheral 99mTc radioactivity counts were 2.4 +/- 0.1 and 2.3 +/- 0.2, respectively. No significant difference was observed in bronchial clearance values between patients with heart/lung and double-lung transplants (26.4 +/- 3.0 percent/h vs 35.9 +/- 3.5 percent/h). Conversely, bronchial clearance was significantly lower in transplant recipients (30.0 +/- 2.5 percent/h) than in normal controls (58.7 +/- 6.2 percent/h; p < 0.001). This decreased bronchial clearance can be expected to increase the risk of lung infection in long-term survivors of heart/lung and double-lung transplantation.