Several in vitro and in vivo studies have emphasized the importance of generating a high inspiratory flow when using a dry powder inhaler. Little attention has been paid to the influence of the inspiratory flow profile on the particle size distribution contained in aerosols generated by these devices. The internal volume of a device such as the Turbuhaler is small compared with a vital capacity breath and it is possible that all the powder has been drawn from the device before peak inspiratory flow has been achieved, particularly if the time to peak inspiratory flow is prolonged. A series of experiments were performed to assess the effect of different flow profiles through the Turbuhaler, each with a peak flow of 60 l min(-1).A 400 mu g budesonide Turbuhaler was enclosed in a chamber allowing air to pass unimpeded through the dosing channels and entrainment ports. A large three-way tap was used to blow powder from the device across a Malvern Mastersizer laser particle sizer which produced a profile of the particle size distribution within the aerosol. The rate of increase in flow through the Turbuhaler was determined by the rate at which the three-way tap was turned, and recorded by means of a pneumotachograph.The rate of increase in flow was found to significantly affect the particle size distribution within the aerosol. Failure to attain a flow of 30 l min(-1) before 150 ml of air had passed through the device resulted in the aerosol volume median diameter increasing from less than 6.6 mu m to greater than 45.3 mu m.These results indicate that flow during the initial part of the inspiratory effort may be important in determining the characteristics of the aerosol generated by a dry powder inhaler. With more sophisticated equipment, it might be possible to explore the relationship between flow profile and particle size distribution generated by dry powder devices in more detail.