1. Rats kept in a hypoxic chamber (10% O2) for 3 or more weeks developed right ventricular hypertrophy, muscularization of pulmonary arterioles and polycythaemia. These changes resemble those found in human hypoxic disease and, in particular, in patients dying from chronic airways obstruction.
2. Resolution of these changes was studied in a normal environment and in an intermittently normal, intermittently hypoxic environment. The latter regimen modelled the situation of patients with cor pulmonale receiving long-term intermittent oxygen therapy.
3. In a normal environment right ventricular hypertrophy and polycythaemia were resolved in 6 weeks but vessel changes were not resolved in 12 weeks.
4. In the intermittently normoxic environment (40 or 80 h in air per week) there was some resolution of right ventricular hypertrophy in 6 weeks but no significant reduction in vessel thickening or in polycythaemia in 12 weeks.