The etiologic factors of major (greater than or equal to 200 ml/24 hr) and massive (greater than or equal to 1,000 ml/24 hr) hemoptysis may well affect the outcome and, therefore, the treatment of this often life-threatening problem. the decline in the incidence of tuberculosis (TB) and bronchiectasis, along with the increase in bronchitis and neoplasia, have led to a strong institutional bias against operating on patients with major and massive hemoptysis. A retrospective case study and an extensive literature review were undertaken to critically evaluate this policy. Fifty-nine consecutive patients with major hemoptysis, 26 of whom had massive hemoptysis, were identified from 887 patients seen in our institution over a 10-year period. Only four of these 59 patients underwent surgery, while 55 were managed conservatively. Etiologic factors, operability, and bleeding rate all appeared to play a major role in outcome. No patients with bronchitis, bronchiectasis, tuberculosis, or who were on anticoagulation therapy died compared to a mortality rate of 59% in patients with carcinoma (CA) of the lung and 71% in patients with leukemia. Eleven percent of operable patients treated conservatively died compared to a 46% mortality rate for nonoperable patients. And, 9% of patients with bleeding rates less than 1,000 ml/24 hr died compared to 58% of those with greater than or equal to 1,000 ml/24 hr. Conservative management appears to have a low mortality in patients with non-tuberculosis-related major hemoptysis as well as in many patients with massive hemoptysis, especially those patients who are operable and those without neoplastic disease.