The objective of this analysis is to compare endoscopic stenting with surgical bypass in patients with unresectable, malignant, distal common bile duct obstruction using the technique of meta-analysis. The inclusion criteria for the studies were randomized patient assignment, publication in the English language, 20 or more patients per group, all patients followed up until death, and follow-up and complications reported in an equivalent way for both treatment arms. Data extraction was performed independently by 2 of the authors. The number of treatment failures, serious complications, requirement for additional treatment sessions, and 30-day mortality were extracted. Three existing trials met the inclusion criteria, all of which compared surgery with the use of plastic stents. There were no studies identified that used metallic expandable stents. For the rate of treatment failure and serious complications, the odds ratios (ORs) of the 3 trials were heterogeneous, and no summary ORs were calculated. More treatment sessions were required after stent placement than after surgery, and a common OR was estimated to be 7.23 (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.73 to 13.98). Thirty-day mortality was not significantly different (OR = 0.522; 95% CI, 0.263 to 1.036). Although surgical bypass required fewer additional treatment sessions, existing data do not allow a definitive conclusion on which treatment is preferable. A larger randomized controlled trial using newer metallic stents and proper quality-of-life instruments is required.