Perspectives on invasive and noninvasive ventilatory support for critically ill patients are evolving, as much evidence indicates that ventilation may have positive effects on patient survival and the quality of the care provided in intensive care units in Brazil. For those reasons, the Brazilian Association of Intensive Care Medicine (Associação de Medicina Intensiva Brasileira - AMIB) and the Brazilian Thoracic Society (Sociedade Brasileira de Pneumonia e Tisiologia - SBPT), represented by the Mechanical Ventilation Committee and the Commission of Intensive Therapy, respectively, decided to review the literature and draft recommendations for mechanical ventilation with the goal of creating a document for bedside guidance as to the best practices on mechanical ventilation available to their members. The document was based on the available evidence regarding 29 subtopics selected as the most relevant for the subject of interest. The project was developed in several stages, during which the selected topics were distributed among experts recommended by both societies with recent publications on the subject of interest and/or significant teaching and research activity in the field of mechanical ventilation in Brazil. The experts were divided into pairs that were charged with performing a thorough review of the international literature on each topic. All the experts met at the Forum on Mechanical Ventilation, which was held at the headquarters of AMIB in São Paulo on August 3 and 4, 2013, to collaboratively draft the final text corresponding to each sub-topic, which was presented to, appraised, discussed and approved in a plenary session that included all 58 participants and aimed to create the final document.