We evaluated the end-inspiratory occlusion maneuver as a means to estimate the inspiratory effort during pressure support ventilation (PS). In nine nonobstructed acute lung injury (ALI) patients, we applied four levels of PS (0, 5, 10, 15 cm H2O) to modify the inspiratory effort. End inspiratory occlusions (2 to 3 s) were performed at the end of each experimental period by pushing the inspiratory hold button of the ventilator (Servo 900 C; Siemens, Berlin, Germany). We took the difference between the end-inspiratory occlusion plateau pressure and the airway pressure before the occlusion (PEEP + PS) as an estimate of the inspiratory effort and called it PMI (Pmusc,index). From the esophageal pressure tracing we obtained a reference measurement of the pressure developed by the inspiratory muscles at end inspiration (Pmusc,ei) and of the pressure-time product per breath (PTP/b) and per minute (PTP/min). In each patient, PMI was correlated with Pmusc,ei (p < 0.01) and PTP/b (p < 0.01). A PMI threshold of 6 cm H2O detected PTP/min < 125 cm H2O s/min with a sensitivity of 0.89 and a specificity of 0.89. We conclude that PMI is a good estimate of the pressure developed by the inspiratory muscles in ALI patients and may be used to titrate PS level. The major advantage of PMI is that it can be obtained from the ventilator display without any additional equipment.