BACKGROUND/AIMS: The influence of type of surgery and occurrence of post-operative complications on survival following adjuvant therapy for pancreatic cancer are uncertain. METHODS: Cox proportional hazard modelling was used to investigate the influence of type of surgery and the presence of complications on survival in conjunction with clinico-pathological variables in the 550 patients of the ESPAC-1 adjuvant randomized controlled trial. RESULTS: Standard Kausch-Whipple (KW) was performed in 282 (54%) patients, 186 (35%) had a pylorus-preserving (PP) KW, 39 (7%) had a distal pancreatectomy and 21 (4%) had a total pancreatectomy. Post-operative complications were reported in 140 (27%) patients. PP-KW patients survived longer with a median (95% CI) survival of 19.9 (17.3, 23.1) months compared to 14.8 (13.0, 16.7) for KW patients (chi(2)(LR) = 15.1, p <0.001). KW patients were more likely however to have R1 margins (67 (24%) vs. 29 (16%), chi(2) = 4.59, p = 0.032), poorly differentiated tumours (70 (26%) vs. 19 (10%), chi(2) = 18.65, p <0.001) and positive lymph nodes (165 (60%) vs. 81 (44%), chi(2) = 11.32, p <0.001). Post-operative complications did not significantly affect survival. Independent prognostic factors were tumour grade, nodal status and tumour size but not type of surgery or post-operative complications. There was a survival benefit for chemotherapy irrespective of the type of surgery or post-operative complications. CONCLUSIONS: The KW and PP-KW procedures did not significantly influence the hazard of death in the presence of tumour staging, demonstrating that ESPAC-1 surgeons showed good judgement in their choice of operation. Post-operative complications did not adversely affect the survival benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.