Prone position and recruitment maneuvers (RM) are proposed as adjuncts to mechanical ventilation to open up the lung and keep it open. We studied the oxygenation response to a RM (composed of a 30-s sustained inflation at 60 cm H(2)O airway pressure) performed in prone and supine positions in dogs after oleic acid- induced lung injury using an inspired O(2) fraction of 0.60. In one group (n = 6) first supine then prone positions were examined after a RM at 8 cm H(2)O and 15 cm H(2)O of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP). In the second group (n = 6) the sequence of positions was reversed. Prone positioning after supine position always improved oxygenation, whereas the decrement in Pa(O(2)) was relatively small when dogs were returned to the supine position. Oxygenation improved in both groups after a RM, and the improvement was sustained (after 15 min) in the prone position at 8 cm H(2)O of PEEP, but 15 cm H(2)O of PEEP was required in supine position. Our results suggest that a RM improves oxygenation more effectively with a decreased PEEP requirement for the preservation of the oxygenation response in prone compared with supine position.