A retrospective study was carried out of 522 elective liver resections to determine the impact of blood transfusion on the immediate postoperative outcome and on long-term survival. The number of liver resections without transfusion has increased in recent years, as a result of improvement in surgical technique with less blood loss during operation and more careful choice of the timing of transfusion. In resections carried out in the past 5 years, the indication for intraoperative transfusion was restricted and the decision was made jointly by the surgeon and anaesthetist, and in any case only if the haematocrit was below 25 per cent. Of resections carried out in the past 2 years, 59 per cent did not require intraoperative transfusion. Postoperative deaths and complications were related to blood transfusion, particularly in patients with cirrhosis, in whom stepwise logistic regression analysis showed that transfusion was the only factor that correlated significantly with complications. Transfusion also affected the long-term survival of patients operated on for hepatocellular carcinoma and colorectal carcinoma metastases in univariate analysis and was the only factor shown by multivariate analysis to correlate with survival for hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with cirrhosis.