Heart-lung, double lung, and single lung transplantation have been shown to be effective in the treatment of patients with advanced cardiopulmonary disorders. An overlap in indications occurs for the different procedures, and in many situations the factors that are important in selecting the best operation for a given patient have not been clearly elucidated. To determine whether the anticipated exercise capacity should be an important consideration in the selection of the optimal procedure for a given patient, we compared exercise performance in patients who had undergone the different lung transplantation procedures in the preceding year and were otherwise well. Eleven heart-lung, six double lung, and 16 single lung recipients and 28 control subjects underwent maximal symptom-limited incremental exercise tests using a cycle ergometer. At peak exercise, transplant recipients reached maximum oxygen uptakes in the range of 40% to 60% of predicted values; no significant differences existed between the means of the different transplant groups. Ventilatory factors did not appear to limit exercise in any group. The exercise responses in the transplant subjects were characterized by reduced aerobic capacity and diminished oxygen pulse, factors indicating abnormal cardiovascular performance. Our data indicate that moderate levels of exercise can be anticipated early after heart-lung, double lung, and single lung transplantation. In the absence of substantial differences in exercise capacity, other considerations would appear to be more important in guiding the selection of the optimal lung replacement procedure for an individual patient.