BACKGROUND Noninvasive ventilation (NIV) reduces intubation rates, mortalities, and lengths of hospital and intensive care unit stays in patients with acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD). Helmet-based NIV is better tolerated than oronasal mask-based ventilation, and thus, allows NIV to be conducted for prolonged periods at higher pressures with minimal air leaks. CASE SUMMARY A 73-year-old man with a previous diagnosis of COPD stage 4 was admitted to our medical intensive care unit with chief complaints of cough, sputum, and dyspnea of several days’ duration. For 10 mo, he had been on oxygen at home by day and had used an oronasal mask-based NIV at night. At intensive care unit admission, he breathed using respiratory accessory muscles. Hypercapnia and signs of infection were detected, and infiltration was observed in the right lower lung field by chest radiography. Thus, we diagnosed AECOPD by community-acquired pneumonia. After admission, respiratory distress steadily deteriorated and invasive mechanical ventilation became necessary. However, the patient refused this option, and thus, we selected helmet-based NIV as a salvage treatment. After 3 d of helmet-based NIV, his consciousness level and hypercapnia recovered to his pre-hospitalization level. CONCLUSION Helmet-based NIV could be considered as a salvage treatment when AECOPD patients refuse invasive mechanical ventilation and oronasal mask-based NIV is ineffective.