Background: There is a need for robust, clearly defined, patient-relevant outcome measures for use in randomised trials in perioperative medicine. Our objective was to establish standard outcome measures for postoperative pulmonary complications research. Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted using MEDLINE, Web of Science, SciELO, and the Korean Journal Database. Definitions were extracted from included manuscripts. We then conducted a three-stage Delphi consensus process to select the optimal outcome measures in terms of methodological quality and overall suitability for perioperative trials. Results: From 2358 records, the full texts of 81 manuscripts were retrieved, of which 45 met the inclusion criteria. We identified three main categories of outcome measure specific to perioperative pulmonary outcomes: (i) composite outcome measures of multiple pulmonary outcomes (27 definitions); (ii) pneumonia (12 definitions); and (iii) respiratory failure (six definitions). These were rated by the group according to suitability for routine use. The majority of definitions were given a low score, and many were imprecise, difficult to apply consistently, or both, in large patient populations. A small number of highly rated definitions were identified as appropriate for widespread use. The group then recommended four outcome measures for future use, including one new definition. Conclusions: A large number of postoperative pulmonary outcome measures have been used, but most are poorly defined. Our four recommended outcome measures include a new definition of postoperative pulmonary complications, incorporating an assessment of severity. These definitions will meet the needs of most clinical effectiveness trials of treatments to improve postoperative pulmonary outcomes.