We studied the effect of lung preservation on the surfactant system in rats. Lung surfactant is necessary to maintain normal lung mechanics, and hence normal lung function. We evaluated lung mechanics with pressure-volume (P-V) curves, and analyzed biochemical changes of surfactant in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid. Additionally, we determined wet to dry weight ratios (W/D). We defined five study groups. In group I (controls) we harvested lungs without pulmonary artery flushing, then evaluated them immediately. In group II we flushed lungs through the pulmonary artery (PA) with hypothermic modified Euro-Collins solution (mECS), then removed and studied them immediately to determine the consequences of PA flushing alone. In groups III, IV, and V we flushed lungs with mECS, then stored them in normal saline (NS) for 6 hr (group III); in NS for 12 hr (group IV); or in mECS for 12 hr (group V). In groups III, IV, and V we evaluated lungs after storage. All four experimental groups showed significant changes in lung mechanics and surfactant biochemistry, compared with controls. Lungs in groups III, IV, and V showed additional changes in lung mechanics and surfactant biochemistry compared with group II. The W/D in stored lungs (groups III, IV, and V) was significantly higher than in controls and group II. We conclude that lung preservation induces deleterious changes in the surfactant system. Surfactant alterations are evident immediately after pulmonary artery flushing, and increase in severity with storage.