Prior studies have shown that nasal intermittent positive pressure ventilation (NIPPV) can improve arterial blood gas values, prevent symptoms resulting from alveolar hypoventilation, and decrease hospitalization in patients with chronic respiratory failure. Most studies have involved small samples of patients followed up for a limited time. This study reviews our experience during 5 years use of NIPPV in 276 patients with kyphoscoliosis, posttuberculosis sequelae, Duchenne-type muscular dystrophy, COPD, and bronchiectasis followed up for > or = 3 years while receiving NIPPV. Outcomes were compared for patients who survived short term eg, died or converted to management with a tracheostomy and intermittent positive ventilation (TIPPV) during year 1 or year 2 on a regimen of NIPPV and long term, eg, survived more > or = 2 years on a regimen of NIPPV. The most favorable outcome was achieved by patients with kyphoscoliosis and posttuberculosis sequelae with improvement in PaO2 and PaCO2 (p < 0.0001) and a reduction in days of hospitalization for respiratory illness (p < 0.0001) for > or = 2 years while receiving NIPPV. Patients with Duchenne-type muscular dystrophy also had fewer hospital days during NIPPV (p < 0.003) but only 9 of 16 patients (56 percent) continued using NIPPV for the duration of followup. Benefit was also more short term for patients with COPD and bronchiectasis. NIPPV can sustain improvement in gas exchange, while reducing hospitalization for substantial periods of time. NIPPV can be an attractive and effective alternative to other methods of assisted ventilation such as TIPPV.