Surgical resection of lung cancer is frequently required in patients with severely impaired lung function resulting from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Twenty patients with obstructive lung disease and cancer (mean preoperative forced expiratory volume in 1 second [FEV1] = 1.73 L) were studied preoperatively and postoperatively by spirometry and radionuclide perfusion, single-breath ventilation, and washout techniques to test the ability of these methods to predict preoperatively the partial loss of lung function by the resection. Postoperative FEV1 and forced vital capacity (FVC) were accurately predicted by the formula: postoperative FEV1 (or FVC) = preoperative FEV1 X percent function of regions of lung not to be resected (r = 0.88 and 0.95, respectively). Ventilation and perfusion scans are equally effective in prediction. Washout data add to the sophistication of the method by permitting the qualitative evaluation of ventilation during tidal breathing. Criteria for patients requiring the study are suggested.