On the basis of the evidence available, the authors would suggest a decision making algorithm to determine the need for ICU admission postoperatively similar to that shown in Fig. 1. First, patients should quit smoking at least 1 month and preferably 2 months before surgery. Those over the age of 70 years should receive elective ICU admission. Second, those at increased risk of general anesthesia, as judged by ASA and performance status scores and cardiovascular risk assessment, should be prebooked into the ICU in the postoperative period. A ppo FEV1 of less than 44% should warrant additional monitoring rather than mandate ICU admission. Pre-existing fibrotic lung disease mandates ICU admission. Third, perioperatively, protective (low tidal volume) ventilatory strategies should be applied during one lung ventilation. Patients undergoing one lung ventilation, and especially those undergoing extensive lymphatic dissection, should be monitored closely for signs of ALI in the first 5 days postoperatively. This, together with any indication of postoperative complications such as POP, BPF or empyema, should mandate immediate transfer to the ICU.