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This single-institution study examined the outcome after pancreaticoduodenectomy in patients with adenocarcinoma of the head of the pancreas.In recent years, pancreaticoduodenectomy for adenocarcinoma of the head of the pancreas has been associated with decreased morbidity and mortality and, in some centers, 5-year survival rates in excess of 20%.Two hundred one patients with pathologically verified adenocarcinoma of the head of the pancreas undergoing pancreaticoduodenectomy at The Johns Hopkins Hospital between 1970 and 1994 were analyzed (the last 100 resections were performed between March 1991 and April 1994). This is the largest single-institution experience reported to date.The overall postoperative in-hospital mortality rate was 5%, but has been 0.7% for the last 149 patients. The actuarial 5-year survival for all 201 patients was 21%, with a median survival of 15.5 months. There were 11 5-year survivors. Patients resected with negative margins (curative resections: n = 143) had an actuarial 5-year survival rate of 26%, with a median survival of 18 months, whereas those with positive margins (palliative resections: n = 58) fared significantly worse, with an actuarial 5-year survival rate of 8% and a median survival of 10 months (p < 0.0001). Survival has improved significantly from decade to decade (p < 0.002), with the 3-year actuarial survival of 14% in the 1970s, 21% in the 1980s, and 36% in the 1990s. Factors significantly favoring long-term survival by univariate analyses included tumor diameter < 3 cm, negative nodal status, diploid tumor DNA content, tumor S phase fraction < 18%, pylorus-preserving resection, <800 mL intraoperative blood loss, <2 units of blood transfused, negative resection margins, and use of postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Multivariate analyses indicated the strongest predictors of long-term survival were diploid tumor DNA content, tumor diameter < 3 cm, negative nodal status, negative resection margins, and decade of resection.