Eighty-six patients who underwent regional node dissection (RND) for melanoma were reviewed with respect to short and long term postoperative morbidity, mortality and local recurrence rate. Twenty-eight per cent of dissections were prophylactic and seventy-two per cent therapeutic. There were significant wound related complications which tended to delay hospital discharge, in particular following axillary and groin dissections, but symptomatic long term complications were infrequent. The postoperative mortality rate was 1·2 per cent. Local recurrence in RND scars was particularly common in the neck (33 per cent). RND for melanoma is a safe procedure, with significant short term but relatively little long term morbidity. Both recurrence and morbidity should be borne in mind when considering patients for prophylactic RND. Surgeons should be prepared to use axial or myocutaneous flaps where extensive skin resection is necessary. A controlled trial of prophylactic antibiotics would be useful to try to reduce the incidence of wound infection.