During 1988 and 1989, a regional cohort of 81 infants with birth weights less than 1501 g were treated with oxygen only (n = 11), early continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) (n = 68) or mechanical ventilation from birth (n = 2). We used an easily applicable lightweight CPAP system with nasal prongs and a gas jet supplemented with ventilator treatment if necessary, but with conservative criteria for ventilator treatment with tolerance of high PCO2. A total of 65 infants (80%) survived to discharge, 61 of whom were supported solely with CPAP or oxygen. Nineteen infants (26%) developed periventricular-intraventricular haemorrhage, but only 4 survivors (6%) developed prognostically significant bleedings grade 2-4. No survivors had bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Follow-up at 12-39 months of age revealed definite disabilities in 6 (10%) and suspected disabilities in 2 of 62 long-term survivors. The results suggest that treatment by early CPAP with nasal prongs with tolerance of high PCO2 may be effective and lenient in most infants more than 25 weeks' gestation.