Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the third leading cause of death in the United States, affecting more than 24 million people. Inhaled bronchodilators are the mainstay of therapy; they improve symptoms and quality of life and reduce exacerbations. These and smoking cessation and long-term oxygen therapy for hypoxemic patients are the only medical treatments definitively demonstrated to reduce mortality. Surgical approaches include lung transplantation and lung volume reduction and the latter has been shown to improve exercise tolerance, quality of life, and survival in highly selected patients with advanced emphysema. Lung volume reduction surgery results in clinical benefits. The procedure is associated with a short-term risk of mortality and a more significant risk of cardiac and pulmonary perioperative complications. Interest has been growing in the use of noninvasive, bronchoscopic methods to address the pathological hyperinflation that drives the dyspnea and exercise intolerance that is characteristic of emphysema. In this review, the mechanism by which lung volume reduction improves pulmonary function is outlined, along with the risks and benefits of the traditional surgical approach. In addition, the emerging bronchoscopic techniques for lung volume reduction are introduced and recent clinical trials examining their efficacy are summarized. Copyright © 2011 The Southern Medical Association.