Rats were exposed to 98.5% oxygen at 765 torr for 6–72 hr. The pulmonary changes were investigated by electron microscopy and by morphometric methods. A progressive thickening of the air-blood barrier, from the normal 1.5 to 3 µ after 3 days, was due primarily to enlargement of the interstitial space by accumulation of edema which was replaced secondarily by cells and fibrin. This was accompanied by destruction of about 50% of the capillaries. Morphometric data allowed an estimate of the degree of impairment of lung function. The primary cellular damage was located in endothelial cells which underwent cytoplasmic changes and, finally, fragmentation. In contrast, the damage to the epithelial lining of alveoli was relatively scarce compared to the extensive endothelial changes. This pertained even to severely damaged lungs with 65% of the alveoli obliterated by a heterogeneous exudate. Possible causes for this apparently different reaction of epithelium (the first target cell) and endothelium to toxic oxygen effects are discussed.

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