BACKGROUND: Surfactant dysfunction may contribute to the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in persistently ventilated preterm infants. We conducted a multicenter randomized, blinded, pilot study to assess the safety and efficacy of late administration of doses of a surfactant protein-B (SP-B)-containing surfactant (calfactant) in combination with prolonged inhaled nitric oxide (iNO) in infants =1,000 g birth weight (BW). METHODS: We randomized 85 preterm infants ventilated at 7-14 d after birth to receive either late administration of surfactant (up to 5 doses) plus prolonged iNO or iNO alone. Large aggregate surfactant was isolated from daily tracheal aspirates (TAs) for measurement of SP-B content, total protein, and phospholipid (PL). RESULTS: Late administration of surfactant had minimal acute adverse effects. Clinical status as well as surfactant recovery and SP-B content in tracheal aspirate were transiently improved as compared to the controls; these effects waned after 1 d. The change in SP-B content with surfactant dosing was positively correlated with SP-B levels during treatment (r = 0.50, P = 0.02). CONCLUSION: Low SP-B values increased with calfactant administration, but the relationship of this response to SP-B levels suggests that degradation is a contributing mechanism for SP-B deficiency and surfactant dysfunction. We conclude that late therapy with surfactant in combination with iNO is safe and transiently increases surfactant SP-B content, possibly leading to improved short- and long-term respiratory outcomes.