In an attempt to understand the widely varying bronchoalveolar lavage lymphocyte counts reported in normal subjects, we performed bronchoalveolar lavage in 42 healthy nonsmokers. The mean (SD) lymphocyte percentage in this first lavage was 9.6% (7.7%). The values did not fit a normal distribution. Five subjects had more than 20% of lymphocytes, and when they were excluded the distribution of lymphocyte counts was normal. Bronchoalveolar lavage was repeated once or twice in these five subjects 47 days or more after the previous lavage and the lymphocyte count decreased below 14% in four. Eight volunteers with an initial lymphocyte percentage less than 20% also had repeat lavages; two presented a transient increase of lymphocyte count above 20%. These data show that the percentage of lymphocytes in lavage fluid fluctuates significantly in normal subjects and suggest that lymphocyte counts counts higher than 14% should not be considered as normal.
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