Adequate humidification of inspired gases with HMEs during long-term MV remains controversial. In this study, a comparison is made between tracheal secretions during long-term MV either with HME or conventional HH. Both the HME and HH groups were similar with respect to age, sex, diagnosis, duration of MV, SAPS and mortality. Temperature of gases in the tracheal tube was lower and the amount of tracheal instillations was greater in the HME group than in the HH group. Tracheal secretions became thicker between day 1 (control) and day 5, in the HME group than in the HH group. Four and two tube occlusions occurred in HME and HH groups, respectively. Tracheal bacterial colonization was similar in the two groups. Given the advantages of HME (reduced nurses' work and financial cost), HME could be routinely used under cautious surveillance and replaced by HH if difficulty in suctioning occurs.