We examined the effects of oscillatory frequency (f), tidal volume (VT), and mean airway pressure (Paw) on respiratory gas exchange during high-frequency oscillatory ventilation of healthy anesthetized rabbits. Frequencies from 3 to 30 Hz, VT from 0.4 to 2.0 ml/kg body wt (approximately 20-100% of dead space volume), and Paw from 5 to 20 cmH2O were studied. As expected, both arterial partial pressure of O2 and CO2 (PaO2 and PaCO2, respectively) were found to be related to f and VT. Changing Paw had little effect on blood gas tensions. Similar values of PaO2 and PaCO2 were obtained at many different combinations of f and VT. These relationships collapsed onto a single curve when blood gas tensions were plotted as functions of f multiplied by the square of VT (f. VT2). Simultaneous tracheal and alveolar gas samples showed that the gradient for PO2 and PCO2 increased as f. VT2 decreased, indicating alveolar hypoventilation. However, venous admixture also increased as f. VT2 decreased, suggesting that ventilation-perfusion inequality must also have increased.