We assessed the negative predictive value of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) for Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) during prophylaxis with aerosolized pentamidine. On the basis of the assumption that undiagnosed and untreated PCP would progress and become clinically apparent, for 3 months we prospectively followed 34 consecutive cases in which BAL had not detected PCP. All patients were immunodeficient, had a symptomatic human immunodeficiency virus infection, and were evaluated for possible PCP during prophylaxis with aerosolized pentamidine. No transbronchial biopsies were performed. In 32 of 34 cases, a diagnosis of PCP could be excluded because of other definite diagnoses or improvement during the follow-up. Despite negative results of an examination of their BAL fluid, two patients received empirical treatment that was active against PCP; these patients were regarded as possibly having undiagnosed PCP. Thus, the negative predictive value of BAL alone was at least 94% (32 of 34 cases) in excluding a diagnosis of PCP during prophylaxis with aerosolized pentamidine.