Lung function of patients with heart failure is characterized by a variety of changes proposed as being due to passive congestion, secondary pulmonary fibrosis, and/or recurrent pulmonary emboli. A diffusion impairment thought to be due to cyclosporine has also been noted in patients following heart transplantation. Similar changes of unclear origin have been observed in renal transplant recipients. The objective of this study was to determine the extent to which lung function changes are reversible by cardiac transplantation and relate changes to the status of the recipients lung in the presence of possible vascular, iatrogenic, immune, or infectious injury. We analyzed the data of 22 patients who underwent lung function testing before and after heart transplantation and correlated changes to hemodynamic change, episodes of rejection, concentration of cyclosporine, and cytomegalovirus infection. Despite excellent graft function, the carbon monoxide transfer factor deteriorated to a mean of 57 percent of predicted postoperatively. The fall in diffusion factor did not correlate with episodes of cardiac rejection, cyclosporine levels, or hemodynamic status. In those patients who had serologic evidence of cytomegalovirus infection, the reduction in transfer factor was greater compared to those without infection despite a normal chest radiograph. The effects of cardiopulmonary bypass were unlikely to have been responsible for the abnormalities as lung function was assessed at a mean of 14 months after surgery. In heart transplant recipients, a change in diffusion capacity may represent an additional marker for cytomegalovirus infection and reflect infectious/immune injury late following surgery.