We assessed breathing patterns during pressure support ventilation (PSV) and its relationship with the work of breathing in 10 postoperative patients. With increasing levels of pressure support, minute ventilation and tidal volume increased with a decrease in respiratory frequency. Increased minute ventilation was achieved by increased mean inspiratory flow. Duty cycle, however, decreased with PSV. This decrease might allow the diaphragm a longer rest period between contractions, which might decrease the risk of diaphragmatic fatigue. Furthermore, PSV reduced the inspiratory work added by a ventilator to near zero. Oxygen consumption was also decreased with PSV. We conclude that PSV improved the breathing patterns and minimized the work of breathing spontaneously via a ventilator.