Introduction: Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma includes a number of procedures with different clinical indications and therapeutic intents. To unify the nomenclature, IMIG and IASLC recently defined P/D-related procedures according to surgical technique, including 'extended P/D', 'P/D' and 'partial pleurectomy'. The present systematic review aimed to assess the safety and efficacy of these techniques. Methods: A systematic review of relevant studies was performed by electronic search of five online databases from 1985 to 2012 by two independent reviewers according to predefined selection criteria. Results: Thirty-four studies involving 1916 patients who underwent pleurectomy were included for quantitative analysis. These included 12 studies on 'extended P/D', 8 studies on 'P/D' and 14 studies on 'partial pleurectomy'. Perioperative mortality ranged from 0% to 11% and perioperative morbidity ranged from 13% to 43%. Median overall survival ranged from 7.1 to 31.7 months and disease-free survival ranged from 6 to 16 months. One study reported on quality-of-life outcomes using a standardized questionnaire suggesting superior outcomes for 'extended P/D' compared to extrapleural pneumonectomy. Conclusions: Results of the present systematic review suggested similar perioperative mortality outcomes between different P/D techniques but a trend towards higher morbidity and length of hospitalization for patients who underwent 'extended P/D'. However, overall and disease-free survival appeared to favour 'extended P/D' compared to less aggressive techniques. Future studies on P/D should adhere to recent definitions to enable accurate analysis of similar procedures. Direct comparisons of pleurectomy to extrapleural pneumonectomy remain challenging, and should be restricted to 'extended P/D' procedures only.