Nebulized aerosols are commonly used to deliver drugs into the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of pressure-support (PS) ventilation in increasing aerosol deposition within the lungs of children with CF. An in vitro study demonstrated the feasibility of coupling a breath-actuated nebulizer to a PS device. An in vivo study was done with 18 children (ages 6 to 21 yr) with clinically stable CF, each of whom underwent both a standard and a PS-driven ventilation scan (control session and PS session, respectively). In addition, a perfusion scan was used to determine lung outlines and to construct a geometric model for quantifying aerosol deposition by radioactivity counting in MBq. Homogeneity of nebulization was evaluated from the four first-order moments of aerosol distribution in the peripheral and central lung regions. The time-activity nebulization curve was linear in all patients, with higher slopes during the PS than during the control session (0.43 +/- 0.07 [mean +/- SD] MBq/min and 0.32 +/- 0.23 MBq/min, respectively; p < 0.018). Quantitatively, aerosol deposition was about 30% greater after the PS session (4.4 +/- 2.7 MBq) than after the control session (3.4 +/- 2.1 MBq; p < 0.05). Similarly, deposition efficacy (as a percentage of nebulizer output) was significantly better during the PS session than during the control session (15.3 +/- 8.3% versus 11.5 +/- 5.7%, p < 0.05). No differences in the regional deposition pattern or in homogeneity of uptake were observed. In conclusion, our data show that driving the delivery of a nebulized aerosol by noninvasive PS ventilation enhances total lung aerosol deposition without increasing particle impaction in the proximal airways.