The cause of chronic lung disease of early infancy, often called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), remains unclear, partly because large-animal models that reliably reproduce BPD have not been available. We developed a model of BPD in lambs that are delivered prematurely and ventilated for 3 to 4 wk after birth to determine whether the histopathology of chronic lung injury in premature lambs mimics that which occurs in preterm infants who die with BPD, and to compare two ventilation strategies to test the hypothesis that differences in tidal volume (VT) influence histopathologic outcome. The two ventilation strategies were slow, deep ventilation (20 breaths/min, 15 +/- 2 ml/kg body weight VT; n = 5) or rapid, shallow ventilation (60 breaths/min, 6 +/- 1 ml/kg body weight VT; n = 5). Lambs were delivered at 125 +/- 4 d gestation (term = 147 d), treated with surfactant, and mechanically ventilated with sufficient supplemental oxygen to maintain normal arterial oxygenation (60 to 90 mm Hg). Quantitative histologic analysis revealed lung structural abnormalities for both groups of experimental lambs compared with lungs of control term lambs that were < 1 d old (matched for developmental age; n = 5) or 3 to 4 wk old (matched for postnatal age; n = 5). Compared with control lambs, chronically ventilated preterm lambs had pulmonary histopathology characterized by nonuniform inflation patterns, impaired alveolar formation, abnormal abundance of elastin, increased muscularization of terminal bronchioles, and inflammation and edema. Slow, deep ventilation was associated with less atelectasis, less alveolar formation, and more elastin when compared with rapid, shallow ventilation. We conclude that prolonged mechanical ventilation of preterm lambs disrupts lung development and produces pulmonary histopathologic changes that are very similar to those that are seen in the lungs of preterm infants who die with BPD. This chronic lung disease is not prevented by surfactant replacement at birth, does not appear to require arterial hyperoxia, and is influenced by VT.