At the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Washington, DC, 73 patients with bronchogenic carcinoma had pulmonary wedge resection from February 1967 to March 1988, with a 1.4% perioperative mortality and a 4.1% morbidity. Mean age of the patients was 63 years. Patients were considered poor risk with a mean Goldman index of 9 +/- 4 (class II), mean ASA physical status classification II, mean 1-second forced expiratory volume (FEV1) of 1.25 liters (42% predicted), ratio of FEV1 to forced vital capacity 30% predicted, and maximum voluntary ventilation 24% predicted. Staging of the bronchogenic carcinomas indicated 68% stage I, 15% stage II, and 17% stage III, and histology showed 41% epidermoid, 40% adenocarcinoma, 12% bronchoalveolar, 3% large cell, and 4% small cell type. For the 72 patients eligible for follow-up, data were available on 62 for a period ranging from 4 months to 15 years. Survival was 94% at 1 year, 55% at 3 years, 29% at 5 years, 5% at 10 years, and 2% at 15 years. Within 5 years, 21% of the patients had died of causes other than bronchogenic carcinoma. The rate of recurrence was 16%. Analysis by each stage of lung cancer showed local recurrence in 4% of patients with stage I disease, in 9% of those with stage II disease, and in 59% of those with stage III disease. We conclude that wedge resection provided acceptable surgical treatment in a group of high-risk surgical patients.