Failure of weaning from mechanical ventilation in COPD patients is often related to diaphragmatic fatigue. Whether there is a central respiratory drive fatigue and a reserve of excitability is still debated. The purpose of this study was to analyze the following in 13 COPD patients weaned from mechanical ventilation: (1) ventilatory (VE/PETCO2) and neuromuscular (P0.1/PETCO2) response to hypercapnia; (2) the maximum reserve capacity measured through changes in the VE/PETCO2 and P0.1/PETCO2 slopes after doxapram (DXP) infusion, which, given during the test, allows measurement of the maximum response capacity to overstimulation; and (3) analyze the influence of these changes on the outcome of weaning. The results show a variable P0.1/PETCO2 response and a low VE/PETCO2. DXP infusion does not change the slopes of these relations but increases the end-expiratory volume (delta FRCd); (p less than 0.02). Since there was no change in the VE/PETCO2, P0.1/PETCO2, and delta FRC values with or without DXP, there was no excitability reserve in patients who were successfully weaned. When weaning failed, DXP did not change VE/PETCO2 and P0.1/PETCO2 slope, but delta FRCd was greater the delta FRC (p less than 0.001). The excitability reserve in these patients leads to an increase in end-expiratory volume, probably worsening the diaphragm dysfunction.