In recent decades, surgical treatment of hilar cholangiocarcinoma has moved toward liver surgery in association with biliary resection in order to increase radicality and to achieve better survival. Results of local resection compared with hepatectomy associated with bile duct resection and its actual indications have to be clarified. A systematic review of relevant studies published before December 2007 was performed. Original published studies comparing the results of isolated local excision with those of hepatectomy associated with bile duct resection were identified and the reported results were synthesized. The pathologic data suggest that isolated bile duct resection cannot be adequate: required wide surgical margins; neoplastic extension along perineural sheaths; Segment 1 neoplastic invasion. Considering postoperative outcomes, in the 1990s, local resection had significantly lower mortality rates than liver resection. In recent years, the short-term results of liver surgery have improved significantly, while mortality rates have decreased. The R0 resection rate is significantly higher after associated liver resection. Comparison of survival results between local resection and associated liver surgery is difficult because, in the majority of series, the treatment was planned according to tumor extension. Better long-term outcomes have been reported after liver resection than after isolated bile duct resection, even for Bismuth-Corlette type I–II cholangiocarcinoma. Long-term survivors after local resection have been reported in a few selected patients with Bismuth–Corlette type I Tis-T1 or papillary neoplasm.