Evidence of surfactant inactivation by meconium has led to the use of exogenous surfactant therapy in the management of meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS). Liquid assisted ventilation has been shown to improve the cardiopulmonary function in lungs with high surface tension. We compared exogenous surfactant therapy with liquid assisted ventilation in the management of experimental acute meconium aspiration injury. Thirty-two newborn lambs were ventilated at peak inspiratory pressures of 13-16 cm H2O, positive end expiratory pressure of 3-4 cm H2O, fractional inspired oxygen concentration (FiO2) of 1.0, and a respiratory frequency range between 30 and 35 breaths/min. Baseline arterial blood gases, pulmonary function, and arterial blood pressure measurements were taken. All lambs were given 2-3 ml/kg of an unfiltered 25% meconium solution. Lambs were then randomized into either gas-ventilated meconium control, or one of three treatment groups: 1) surfactant; 2) partial liquid ventilation (PLV); or 3) total liquid ventilation (TLV) for 4 hours after meconium injury. All treated groups demonstrated a significant increase in arterial oxygenation (P < 0.05); surfactant and PLV-treated lambs demonstrated significantly decreased arterial PCO2 (P < 0.05). Compliance in all groups increased compared with injury values; compliance of the TLV group increased more than in all other treatment groups (P < 0.05). In addition, lung histology of the TLV group demonstrated clear, intact alveolar epithelium and homogeneously expanded alveoli, while no such improvement was evident in the other groups. These data suggest roles for both exogenous surfactant therapy and liquid assisted ventilation techniques in the management of MAS.