Pulmonary mechanics was prospectively and longitudinally studied in a cohort of 58 infants who suffered from respiratory distress syndrome. The aim was to determine if early compliance and resistance measurements had additional value to simple clinical variables in predicting poor outcome ie nonsurvival or severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) at 28 days. Second, we wanted to determine whether and when the recently described type 1 (mild) BPD and type 2 (severe) BPD could be differentiated by means of lung function tests. In a logistic model, neither lung compliance nor pulmonary resistance at days 1 and 4 of life were selected as predictive variables. On the other hand, gestational age and the ventilatory index no. 1 (ventilator frequency x maximal inspiratory pressure) on day 3 were the best early predictors of poor outcome. Type 2 BPD was characterized by a lower lung compliance and a higher pulmonary resistance than type 1 BPD, although the differences were only significant at 28 days. In conclusion, pulmonary function tests were not helpful in the early prediction of poor outcome at 28 days. They might, however, be of value in the follow-up of BPD patients after 28 days.