OBJECTIVE: To compare the effectiveness of a prophylactic surfactant treatment strategy (PRO) to the effectiveness of a rescue (RESC) surfactant treatment strategy in patients at high risk for developing hyaline membrane disease (HMD). STUDY DESIGN: We analyzed data from a retrospective cohort consisting of all patients admitted to the neonatal intensive care units at the centers participating in the recently completed Infasurf-Survanta Comparative Trial. To be in the cohort, a patient had to be admitted during the trial, be <48 hours of age on admission, have a gestational age of <30 weeks, have a birth weight of 501 to 1250 gm, and be free of congenital anomalies. Twelve centers participated in this study. They contributed 1097 patients of whom 381 were treated with a PRO strategy. RESULTS: Survival was significantly higher in the PRO-strategy patients (84% vs 72%, p < 0.05) as was survival without oxygen requirement at a postconceptional age of 36 weeks (60% vs 46%, p < 0.05). In addition, the patients with PRO had a lower prevalence of grade III and IV intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH, 9% vs 14%, p < 0.05). All analyses were controlled for birth weight and type of study center. CONCLUSION: These data support the conclusion that using a PRO treatment strategy results in improved survival in patients at risk for developing HMD. A PRO treatment strategy may also decrease the likelihood of developing a severe IVH.