The VersaMed 201 is a lightweight, computer-controlled, electrically driven ventilator, designed for transport, home-ventilation and field use. We have evaluated the device in human beings with healthy and pathological lungs. In the first part of the study, the VersaMed was substituted for a standard operating room ventilator for 15–30 min during elective surgery in 20 subjects. In the second stage of the study, 20 patients with lung pathology who were being ventilated in the critical care department were transferred to the VersaMed for a 30-min period. In all the patients studied, arterial blood gases, haemodynamic parameters and other respiratory variables were maintained at similar values seen with the standard ventilators used. We conclude that the VersaMed 201 is suitable for use in human beings with healthy and pathological lungs as a reliable, portable ventilator.