OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of airway pressure release ventilation in children. DESIGN: Prospective, randomized, crossover clinical trial. SETTING: This study was conducted in our 33-bed pediatric intensive care unit at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. PATIENTS: Patients requiring mechanical ventilatory support and weighing >8 kg were considered for enrollment. Patients were excluded if they required mechanical ventilatory support for >7 days or required >.50 Fio(2) for >7 days before enrollment. Patients with documented obstructive airway disease and congenital or acquired heart disease were excluded as well. INTERVENTIONS: Each patient received both volume-controlled synchronized intermittent mechanical ventilation (SIMV) and airway pressure release ventilation (APRV) via the Drager Evita ventilator (Drager, Lubeck, Germany). Measurements were obtained after the patient was stabilized on each ventilation mode. Stabilization was defined as oxygenation, ventilation, hemodynamic variables, and patient comfort within the acceptable range for each patient as determined by the bedside physician. After measurements were obtained on the initial mode of ventilation, the subjects crossed over to the alternative study mode. Stabilization was again achieved, and measurements were repeated. After completion of the second study measurements, patients were placed on the ventilation modality preferred by the bedside clinician and were followed through weaning and extubation. Measurements: Vital signs, airway pressures, minute ventilation, Spo(2), and E(T)CO(2) were recorded at enrollment and at each study condition. MAIN RESULTS: APRV provided similar ventilation, oxygenation, mean airway pressure, hemodynamics, and patient comfort as SIMV. Inspiratory airway pressures were lower with APRV when compared with SIMV. CONCLUSIONS: Using APRV in children with mild to moderate lung disease resulted in comparable levels of ventilation and oxygenation at significantly lower inspiratory peak and plateau pressures. Based on these findings, we plan to evaluate APRV in children with significant lung disease.