Patients with rheumatic mitral stenosis often have no pulmonary oedema despite considerably increased pulmonary venous pressure. Pulmonary microvascular permeability was measured non-invasively by a previously validated method of double isotope scintigraphy with indium-113m and technetium-99m. This permits calculation of an index reflecting transferrin efflux and thus, indirectly, the microvascular permeability. Fifteen patients with severe mitral stenosis (defined as valve area less than 1.0 cm2) were compared with a control group of 11 patients with mild coronary artery disease. The permeability index was significantly lower in patients with mitral stenosis than in the control group. Furthermore, the extent of reduction of the permeability index correlated with the severity of mitral stenosis as reflected by the Gorlin valve area. This finding may account for the relative resistance of these patients to pulmonary oedema despite chronic pulmonary venous hypertension.