The surgical management of pulmonary metastases remains controversial, as no randomized trials have compared surgical excision with nonoperative treatment (to our knowledge). A Medline-generated review of the literature was undertaken to determine the factors influencing survival following metastasectomy in published trials. In the absence of randomized comparative trials, data must remain inferential and circumstantial. However, the literature does support the anecdotal observation that patients with metastatic disease can achieve long-term survival following surgical excision, irrespective of the source of the primary neoplasm, if there is no demonstrable extrathoracic disease and complete excision of the pulmonary disease is possible. Other factors noted as influencing survival appear to be anecdotal and variable from report to report. Pulmonary metastasectomy should be considered in patients with sufficient pulmonary reserve when the lung is the only site of metastatic disease and the lesions can be totally excised. An algorithm is proposed for a logical approach to the problem.