Between March 1976 and December 1992, 137 (57 per cent) of 239 patients with pancreatic duct cell cancer underwent resection; 79 (58 per cent) of the 137 had combined resection of the pancreas and portal vein. Sixty-three of the 79 patients underwent resection of the portal vein alone; six died (mortality rate 10 per cent). The mortality rate was the same as that in 58 patients with no resection of the portal vein. In the remaining 16 patients adjacent arteries were also resected, with seven deaths. Of patients with resection of the portal vein alone who underwent curative resection, four survived more than 5 years, accounting for nearly half of the nine 5-year survivors. Combined resection of the pancreas and portal vein is associated with both an increased resectability rate and improved long-term survival.