REM-related oxygen desaturation occurs in advanced Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and might be an independent predictor of disease progression. We have followed 18 patients for 10 yr after an initial respiratory sleep study or until death or onset of nasal ventilation. We measured baseline spirometry, blood gas tensions, maximal respiratory pressures, and body mass index. In 11 cases, VC was recorded serially. Median survival was 50 (range, 13 to 89) mo from initial study and unrelated to age at time of study, BMI, or mouth pressures but correlated with PaCO2 (r = -0.72, p < 0.005, n = 17), minimal nocturnal SaO2 (r = 0.62, p < 0.007, n = 18) and VC (r = 0. 65, p < 0.005, n = 17). Cox regression analysis showed a VC of less than 1 L at the time of study to be the best single predictor of subsequent survival. The only measure associated with age of death was the age at which the VC fell below 1 L (r = 0.79, p < 0.004). These data suggest measurement of PaCO2 or serial assessment of VC should be studied further as valid methods of assessing prognosis in DMD.