Lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) has recently been rediscovered and offers the potential of improving the quality of life of patients with advanced emphysema. In this article, we discuss the historical and contemporary versions of LVRS. Although initial enthusiasm has been substantial, existing data seem insufficient to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the procedure in comparison with conventional medical therapy. Fundamental questions remain regarding the long-term effects of an operation versus medical therapy, the optimal selection criteria, the best measures of efficacy, the mechanisms of improvement, the cost-effectiveness of the procedure, and the optimal surgical technique. Until such questions are answered, advising patients about the best management of their emphysema will be difficult. The National Emphysema Treatment Trial will address many of these issues and should be embraced by both health-care providers and patients.
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