Numerous reports have confirmed the early benefits of lung volume reduction surgery for selected patients with emphysema. This report documents the long-term survival and functional results after lung volume reduction surgery. Between January 1993 and June 2000, a total of 250 consecutive patients underwent bilateral lung volume reduction surgery through median sternotomy at our institution. All patients had disabling dyspnea, thoracic hyperinflation, and a heterogeneous pattern of emphysema with suitable target areas for resection. Preoperative pulmonary rehabilitation was required and post-rehabilitation data were used as the baseline for data analysis. Follow-up ranged from 1.8 to 9.1 years (median 4.4 years). Prolonged air leaks (>7 days) were the most common complication (45.2%, n = 113). Reexploration rates for air leak and bleeding were 3.2% (n = 8) and 1.2% (n = 3), respectively. Eighteen patients (7.2%) required reintubation and mechanical ventilation. The in-hospital mortality in this series was 4.8% (n = 12). The median length of hospitalization was 9 days (range 4-168 days). Kaplan-Meier survivals after lung volume reduction surgery were 93.6%, 84.4%, and 67.7% at 1, 3, and 5 years, respectively. Eighteen patients (7.2%) have subsequently undergone lung transplantation after a median interval of 4.3 years (range 2.1-6.4 years). Spirometric values, lung volumes, and gas exchange parameters improved after surgery. The forced expiratory volume in 1 second and the residual volume showed statistically significant improvements between preoperative values and each time point of follow-up. Health-related quality of life showed significant postoperative improvement and with time correlated well with the improvement in forced expiratory volume in 1 second. Lung volume reduction surgery produces significant functional improvement for selected patients with emphysema. For most of these patients, benefits appear to last at least 5 years.