CONTEXT AND OBJECTIVE Intrahospital transportation of mechanically ventilated patients is a high-risk situation. We aimed to determine whether transfers could be safely performed by using a transportation routine. DESIGN AND SETTING Prospective cohort study with 'before and after' evaluation. METHODS Mechanically ventilated patients who needed transportation were included. Hemodynamic and respiratory parameters were measured before and after transportation. Statistical analysis consisted of variance analysis and paired Student's t test. Results were considered significant if P < 0.05. RESULTS We studied 37 transfers of 26 patients (12 female) of mean age 46.6 +/- 15.7. Patients with pulmonary diseases, positive end expiratory pressure > 5, FiO2 > 0.4 and vasoactive drug use comprised 42.4%, 24.3%, 21.6% and 33.0% of cases, respectively. Mean duration of transportation was 43.4 +/- 18.9 minutes. Complications occurred in 32.4%. There was a significant increase in CO2 (before transportation, 29.6 +/- 7.3 and after transportation, 34.9 +/- 7.0; P = 0.000); a trend towards improved PO2/FiO2 ratio (before transportation, 318.0 +/- 137.0 and after transportation, 356.8 +/- 119.9; P = 0.053); increased heart rate (before transportation, 80.9 +/- 18.7 and after transportation, 85.5 +/- 17.6; P = 0.08); and no significant change in mean arterial blood pressure (P = 0.93). CONCLUSION These results suggest that intrahospital transportation can be safely performed. Our low incidence of complications was possibly related to both the presence of a multidisciplinary transportation team and proper equipment.