BAL remains a powerful investigative tool. In a short span of 20 yr, it has helped tremendously in understanding some of the aspects of the pathogenesis of diseases involving the lower respiratory tract. To realize its full potential in the diagnosis and management of diseases involving the lower respiratory tract, there is a great need for standardization of the technical aspects of BAL as well as processing and analysis of the BAL cellular- and fluid-phase components. Despite these hurdles, BAL has been found to be diagnostic in several infectious and noninfectious diseases involving the lower respiratory tract, and it provides valuable information that may be helpful in characterizing the prognosis and response to therapy in certain interstitial diseases of the lung (table 1). It is expected that with future research, in particular long-term prospective epidemiologic and clinical studies in pneumoconioses and in other interstitial lung disease, BAL will prove more valuable in the diagnosis and management of such disease.