We reviewed the notes of 197 patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy whose treatment was managed at the Newcastle muscle centre from 1967 to 2002, to determine whether survival has improved over the decades and whether the impact of nocturnal ventilation altered the pattern of survival. Patients were grouped according to the decade of death and whether or not they were ventilated. Kaplan Meier survival analyses showed significant decade on decade improvement in survival. Mean age of death in the 1960s was 14.4 years, whereas for those ventilated since 1990 it was 25.3 years. Cardiomyopathy significantly shortened life expectancy from 19 years to a mean age of 16.9 years. Better coordinated care probably improved the chances of survival to 25 years from 0% in the 1960s to 4% in the 1970s and 12% in the 1980s, but the impact of nocturnal ventilation has further improved this chance to 53% for those ventilated since 1990.