Reducing inspiratory flow rate and peak airway pressure may be important in order to minimise the risk of stomach inflation when ventilating an unprotected airway with positive pressure ventilation. This study was designed to yield enough power to determine whether employing an inspiratory gas flow limiting bag-valve device (SMART BAG, O-Two Medical Technologies Inc., Ontario, Canada) would also decrease the likelihood of stomach inflation in an established bench model of a simulated unintubated respiratory arrest patient. The bench model consists of a training lung (lung compliance, 50 ml/cm H2O; airway resistance, 4 cm H2O/l/s) and a valve simulating lower oesophageal sphincter opening at a pressure of 19 cm H(2)O. One hundred and ninety-one emergency medicine physicians were requested to ventilate the manikin utilising a standard single-person technique for 1 min (respiratory rate, 12/min; Vt, 500 ml) with both a standard adult bag-valve-mask and the SMART BAG. The volunteers were blinded to the experimental design of the model until completion of the experimental protocol. The SMART BAG versus standard bag-valve-mask resulted in significantly (P < 0.001) lower (mean +/- S.D.) mean airway pressure (14 +/- 2 cm H2O versus 16 +/- 3 cm H2O), respiratory rates (13 +/- 3 breaths per min versus 14 +/- 4 breaths per min), incidence of stomach inflation (4.2% versus 38.7%) and median stomach inflation volumes (351 [range, 18-1211 ml] versus 1426 [20-5882 ml]); lung tidal volumes (538 +/- 97 ml versus 533 +/- 97 ml) were comparable. Inspiratory to expiratory ratios were significantly (P < 0.001) increased (1.7 +/- 0.5 versus 1.5 +/- 0.6). In conclusion, the SMART BAG reduced inspiratory flow, mean airway pressure and both the incidence and actual volume of stomach inflation compared with a standard bag-valve-mask device while maintaining delivered lung tidal volumes and increasing the inspiratory to expiratory ratio.