Noninvasive positive ventilation has undergone a remarkable evolution over the past decades and is assuming an important role in the management of both acute and chronic respiratory failure. Long-term ventilatory support should be considered a standard of care to treat selected patients following an intensive care unit (ICU) stay. In this setting, appropriate use of noninvasive ventilation can be expected to improve patient outcomes, reduce ICU admission, enhance patient comfort, and increase the efficiency of health care resource utilization. Current literature indicates that noninvasive ventilation improves and stabilizes the clinical course of many patients with chronic ventilatory failure. Noninvasive ventilation also permits long-term mechanical ventilation to be an acceptable option for patients who otherwise would not have been treated if tracheostomy were the only alternative. Nevertheless, these results appear to be better in patients with neuromuscular/-parietal disorders than in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This clinical review will address the use of noninvasive ventilation (not including continuous positive airway pressure) mainly in diseases responsible for chronic hypoventilation (that is, restrictive disorders, including neuromuscular disease and lung disease) and incidentally in others such as obstructive sleep apnea or problems of central drive.