In this study we hypothesized that nasal synchronized intermittent positive pressure ventilation (nSIPPV) would provide more ventilatory support than nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) in the immediate post-extubation period in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the effects of these two ventilatory techniques on ventilation, gas exchange, and patient inspiratory effort in 11 preterm infants immediately after extubation. All neonates studied (BW: 1141+/-(SEM) 53 g; GA: 28.1+/-(SEM) 0.5 wks) had received mechanical ventilation because of respiratory distress at birth and were extubated by day 14 of life. Nasal SIPPV and nCPAP were applied in random order to each infant after extubation so that each was his/her own control. Both nCPAP and nSIPPV were delivered at end-expiratory pressures (PEEP) of 3 cm H2O. Inspiratory times (Ti) and peak inspiratory pressures set during nSIPPV were the same as those used at the time of extubation. Recordings lasted 45 min in each mode of ventilation. Tidal volume (Vt), minute volume (Ve), respiratory rate (RR), airway pressure (Paw), transcutaneous PO2 (TcPO2) and PCO2 (TcPCO2) as well as phasic esophageal pressure deflections (Pe), as an estimate of inspiratory effort, were measured. The measurements obtained during both modes of ventilation indicated significant differences between the two techniques. Indeed, application of nSIPPV was associated with a statistically significant increase in Vt and Ve. In addition, Pe decreased by 30% during nSIPPV (P<0.01). TcPCO2 was statistically significantly lower during nSIPPV than nCPAP, and RR as well. These data therefore suggest that nSIPPV may provide more ventilatory support than nCPAP in the post-extubation period with less patient inspiratory effort.