The wide variability in postoperative chest tube management following lung resections is based on the fact that nearly no reproducible treatment parameters were available in the past. New electromechanical suction devices, however, providing continuous objective flow values seem to have induced a change in postoperative chest tube management. Thoracic surgeons have become more and more aware that components and parameters of chest tube systems are actuators and regulators of a closed loop system. This concept is the basis for multicentre trials leading to evidence-based options. Initial results from international single centre studies, logical physical considerations of pleural pressure combined with our own experience over decades form the basis for new recommendations to optimise postoperative chest tube management. Main criteria are safety, patient comfort, workload and costs.