OBJECTIVE: To investigate the bacteriological safety of preprepared endotracheal tubes in accident and emergency departments. METHODS: Swabs were taken and cultured from luminal and exterior surfaces of every preprepared exposed endotracheal tube in a hospital resuscitation room. RESULTS: Coagulase negative staphylococci (common skin commensals) were isolated from 50% of the tubes. No other bacteria were isolated. CONCLUSIONS: The practice of leaving preprepared airway equipment exposed in the resuscitation room is unlikely to contribute to the development of nosocomial pneumonia, provided the equipment is kept dry and that personnel minimize handling.