Chronic respiratory insufficiency is inevitable in the course of disease progression in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Without mechanical ventilation (MV), morbidity and mortality are highly likely towards the end of the second decade of life. The present review reports evidence and clinical implications regarding DMD patients treated with MV. There is no doubt that nocturnal hypercapnia precedes daytime hypercapnia. Historical comparisons have provided evidence that non-invasive intermittent positive pressure ventilation (NIPPV) at night is effective and improves quality of life and survival by 5-10 years. By contrast, the optimal criteria and timing for initiation of NIPPV are inconsistent. A recent randomized study however demonstrated the benefits of commencing NIPPV as soon as nocturnal hypoventilation is detected (Ward S, et al., Randomised controlled trial of non-invasive ventilation (NIV) for nocturnal hypoventilation in neuromuscular and chest wall disease patients with daytime normocapnia. Thorax 2005; 60: 1019-24). The respective role of the three hypotheses of the indirect action of nocturnal NIPPV on daytime blood gases may be complimentary; the main improvement may be due to improved ventilatory response to CO2. The ultimate time to offer full time ventilation with the most advantageous interface is lacking in evidence. Full time NIV is possible with a combination of a nasal mask during the night and a mouthpiece during the day, however tracheostomy may be provided when mechanical techniques of cough-assistance are useless to treat chronic cough insufficiency.