Pulmonary complications from impaired airway secretion clearance mechanisms are major causes of morbidity and mortality for post-poliomyelitis individuals. The purpose of this study was to review the long-term use of manually assisted coughing and mechanical insufflation-exsufflation (MI-E) by post-poliomyelitis ventilator-assisted individuals (PVAIs) and to compare the peak cough expiratory flows (PCEF) created during unassisted and assisted coughing. Twenty-four PVAIs who have used noninvasive methods of ventilatory support for an average of 27 years, relied on methods of manually assisted coughing and/or MI-E without complications during intercurrent respiratory tract infections (RTIs). Nine of the 24 individuals were studied for PCEF. They had a mean forced vital capacity (FVC) of 0.54 +/- 0.47L and a mean maximum insufflation capacity achieved by air stacking of ventilator insufflations and glossopharyngeal breathing of 1.7L. The PCEF were as follows: unassisted, 1.78 +/- 1.16L/sec; following a maximum assisted insufflation, 3.75 +/- 0.73L/sec; with manual assistance by abdominal compression following a maximum assisted insufflation, 4.64 +/- 1.42L/sec; and with MI-E, 6.97 +/- 0.89L/sec. We conclude that manually assisted coughing and MI-E are effective and safe methods of airway secretion clearance for PVAIs with impaired expiratory muscle function who would otherwise be managed by endotracheal suctioning. Severely decreased maximum insufflation capacity but not vital capacity indicate need for a tracheostomy.