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Obstructive jaundice is a common presenting symptom among patients with pancreatic cancer. While benefits of preoperative biliary drainage have been suggested by previous studies, recent evidence has shown no significant improvements of preoperative biliary drainage on the postoperative outcome but rather an increase of complications. There is no clear consensus on whether to treat malignant obstructive jaundice with preoperative biliary drainage prior to operative intervention or to proceed directly to resection. Thus, our aim was to elucidate the impact of preoperative biliary drainage of obstructive jaundice due to malignant pancreatic head tumors on postoperative morbidity and mortality.We conducted a meta-analysis in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines and carried out a systematic search of medical databases. The results were analyzed according to predefined criteria. We pooled the incidence of overall complications, wound infection, pancreatic fistula, intra-abdominal abscess, and death within the perioperative time period.We initially identified 1,816 studies, and 25 of these (22 retrospective studies, 3 randomized controlled trials) were finally included in the analysis with a total number of 6,214 patients. Analysis revealed an increased incidence of overall complications (odds ratio: 1.40; 95% confidence interval: 1.14–1.72; P = .002) and wound infections (odds ratio: 1.94; 95% confidence interval: 1.48–2.53; P < .00001) in patients receiving preoperative biliary drainage compared to operative intervention first. Mortality, incidence of pancreatic fistula, or intra-abdominal abscess formation were not affected by preoperative biliary drainage.Preoperative biliary drainage does not have a beneficial effect on postoperative outcome. The increase of postoperative overall complications and wound infections urges for precise indications for preoperative biliary drainage and against routine preoperative biliary decompression.