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To evaluate the predictive and prognostic significance of the prognostic nutritional index (PNI) in a large cohort of gastric cancer patients who underwent gastrectomy.Assessing a patient's immune and nutritional status, PNI has been reported as a predictive marker for surgical outcomes in various types of cancer.We retrospectively reviewed data from a prospectively maintained database of 7781 gastric cancer patients who underwent gastrectomy from January 2001 to December 2010 at a single center. From this data, we analyzed clinicopathologic characteristics, PNI, and short- and long-term surgical outcomes for each patient. We used the PNI value for the 10th percentile (46.70) of the study cohort as a cut-off for dividing patients into low and high PNI groups.Regarding short-term outcomes, multivariate analysis showed a low PNI (odds ratio [OR] = 1.505, 95% CI = 1.212–1.869, P <0.001), old age, male sex, high body mass index, medical comorbidity, total gastrectomy, and combined resection to be independent predictors of postoperative complications. Among these, only low PNI (OR = 4.279, 95% CI = 1.760–10.404, P = 0.001) and medical comorbidity were independent predictors of postoperative mortality. For long-term outcomes, low PNI was a poor prognostic factor for overall survival, but not recurrence (overall survival: hazard ratio [HR] = 1.383, 95% CI = 1.221–1.568, P < 0.001; recurrence-free survival: HR = 1.142, 95% CI = 0.985–1.325, P = 0.078).PNI can be used to predict patients at increased risk of postoperative morbidity and mortality. Although PNI was an independent prognostic factor for overall survival, the index was not associated with cancer recurrence.