Non-invasive ventilation has been used in chronic respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but the effect of the addition of nasal positive-pressure ventilation to long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) has not been determined. We report a randomized crossover study of the effect of the combination of nasal pressure support ventilation (NPSV) and domiciliary LTOT as compared with LTOT alone in stable hypercapnic COPD. Fourteen patients were studied, with values (mean +/- SD) of Pao2 of 45.3 +/- 5.7 mm Hg, PaCO2 of 55.8 +/- 3.6 mm Hg, and FEV1 of 0.86 +/- 0.32 L. A 4 wk run-in period (on usual therapy) was followed by consecutive 3-mo periods of: (1) oxygen therapy alone, and (2) oxygen plus NPSV in randomized order. Assessments were made during run-in and at the end of each study period. There were significant improvements in daytime arterial PaO2 and PaCO2, total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and overnight PaCO2 following 3 mo of oxygen plus NPSV as compared with run-in and oxygen alone. Quality of life with oxygen plus NPSV was significantly better than with oxygen alone. The degree of improvement in daytime PaCO2 was correlated with the improvement in mean overnight PaCO2. Nasal positive-pressure ventilation may be a useful addition to LTOT in stable hypercapnic COPD.