This study reports the results obtained with mechanical ventilation in severe respiratory failure secondary to status asthmaticus. Of the 159 patients with status asthmaticus admitted to the Intensive Respiratory Unit over a 5-yr period, 26 required mechanical ventilation for a total of 34 episodes of acute respiratory acidosis. At the time of intubation, 10 patients were in coma and 5 were in respiratory arrest. Controlled mechanical ventilation was maintained for a mean of 2.5 days. Complications were few and reversible. All patients survived. These favorable results are attributed to a new strategy: mechanical ventilation is used to obtain a correction of hypoxemia with hyperoxic mixtures without attempting to restore an adequate alveolar ventilation. The respirator is adjusted to avoid high airway pressures, which appear to be more dangerous than persistent hypercapnia itself. Correction of hypercapnia is obtained later when bronchial obstruction relief provides better conditions of ventilation-perfusion distribution. So the risks of barotrauma and cardiocirculatory failure, which are frequently reported as fatal complications, appear to be significantly decreased.