In order to evaluate the current standard of care for the management of respiratory failure in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a questionaire was mailed to the Medical Directors of 48 multidisciplinary ALS centers in the United States. Twenty centers reported information on 2357 patients, mean of 124 patients per center. Pulmonary function tests were performed at each visit in 17/20 institutions. Arterial blood gases, maximal expiratory pressures and maximal inspiratory pressures were followed in three centers and serum chloride was monitored in only four centers. The use of non-invasive ventilation (NIV) was extremely variable (range 0-50%) and included 360 patients (15%). The majority of centers used symptoms/signs of hypoventilation and worsening forced vital capacity (FVC) to initiate NIV with no established protocol. A FVC between 20 and 40% was used by most centers to initiate NIV. Due to great variability in the approach to monitoring pulmonary function among ALS centers and the modest effects of current medications to slow disease progression, we propose the use of a structured protocol which can prospectively study the role of NIV in prolonging survival and improving quality of life.