The efficacy of nasal intermittent positive pressure ventilation (NIPPV) in treating apnea of prematurity was evaluated. Apneic preterm infants were randomly assigned to receive either NIPPV or continuous positive airway pressure (NCPAP) for 4 hr when they failed to respond to conservative therapy. The amount of reduction in apneic spells and bradycardia in the two groups after treatment was compared. Thirty-four infants (18 with NIPPV, 16 with NCPAP) were enrolled. Their birth weights ranged from 590-1,880 g (mean, 1,021 g) and gestational ages from 25-32 weeks (mean, 27.6 weeks). The baseline characteristics were comparable in the two groups. Frequency of apnea and bradycardia was reduced during both forms of treatments. However, the infants receiving NIPPV had a greater reduction of apneic spells (P = 0.02) and a tendency to greater decrease in bradycardia (P = 0.09) than those receiving NCPAP. We conclude that NIPPV is more effective than NCPAP in reducing apnea in preterm infants. NIPPV may reduce bradycardia; however, this needs to be validated by a larger number of observations.