The incidence of mediastinal emphysema (ME) and pneumothorax (PTX) was analyzed to determine the roentgenographic patterns and risk factors for the development of barotrauma in a population of mechanically ventilated patients. The roentgenograms of 139 intubated patients admitted to our medical intensive care unit over a ten-month period were evaluated for the presence of ME and PTX. Barotrauma was diagnosed in 34 of these patients, and ME was the initial manifestation in 24 patients. Of these patients with initial ME, ten subsequently developed PTX, a positive predictive value of 42 percent. The adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) patient population was at highest risk for barotrauma, with an intermediate risk seen in those admitted with COPD or pneumonia. Values of peak inspiratory pressure, positive end-expiratory pressure level, respiratory rate, tidal volume, and minute ventilation were significantly elevated in patients who developed barotrauma as compared with patients who did not develop barotrauma. However, these elevations in part reflect the high incidence of barotrauma in the ARDS population, a patient group in which all of the above parameters were elevated.