Many of the complications with endotracheal intubation and invasive mechanical ventilation can be avoided with the use of non-invasive mechanical ventilation (NIMV). This technique has been especially successful in treating patients with acute respiratory failure (ARF). NIMV improves gas exchange, avoids complications caused by endotracheal intubation, and allows patients to talk and take medications orally. This article reviews our experiences treating 27 patients with ARF with a BiPAP (bi-level positive airway pressure) ventilator. This is a portable unit which allows for selection of different modes of ventilation and adjustment of inspiratory and expiratory pressures. Non-invasive mechanical ventilation should be considered in patients presenting with ARF who are hemodynamically stable and in whom spontaneous breathing is preserved.