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In the past the only option for the treatment of respiratory failure due to acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (aeCOPD) was invasive mechanical ventilation. In recent decades, the potential for extracorporeal carbon dioxide (CO2) removal has been realized. We review the various types of extracorporeal CO2 removal, outline the optimal use of these therapies for aeCOPD, and make suggestions for future controlled trials. We also describe the advantages and requirements for an ideal long-term ambulatory CO2 removal system for palliation of COPD.