Although lobectomy is the procedure of preference for patients with peripheral, clinical Stage I bronchogenic carcinomas, wedge resection of the tumor may be a satisfactory alternative in poor-risk patients. Between 1965 and 1982, 197 patients with peripheral bronchogenic carcinomas were operated upon. Clinical staging was established by radiography, bronchoscopy, and mediastinoscopy. Ninety-seven patients underwent lobectomies and 100 had wedge resections. The decision to perform the wedge resection was made preoperatively in the majority of cases based on the assessment of operative risks. Compared to lobectomy patients, those who had wedge resections were older (70.3 +/- 0.5 versus 64.9 +/- 0.5 years, p less than 0.001) and had a lower 1 second forced expiratory volume (1.56 +/- 0.03 versus 1.94 +/- 0.03 ml, p less than 0.001), a lower arterial oxygen tension (70.5 +/- 1.1 versus 75.6 +/- 1.2 mm Hg, p less than 0.01), and a higher arterial carbon dioxide tension (41.7 +/- 0.6 versus 38.7 +/- 0.3 mm Hg, p less than 0.001). Despite their compromised preoperative respiratory functional status, the wedge resection group had a 30 day operative mortality (3% versus 2.1%) and morbidity comparable to those of the lobectomy group. Actuarial life-table analysis indicates the cumulative survival rate at 2 years after operation to be virtually identical between wedge and lobectomy groups (72% versus 74%), and even at 6 years the differences in survival rates (69% versus 75%) were not statistically significant. We conclude, therefore, that by performing wedge resections in selected poor-risk patients, one may reduce the operative mortality and morbidity to an acceptable range without seriously compromising their long-term survival.