Abstract The role of percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) in patients undergoing resection of head and neck malignancy is well established. The procedure may be performed pre- or post-operatively with intravenous sedation or alternatively under general anaesthesia at the time of tumour resection. There are concerns as to the safety of PEG, particularly when performed under intravenous sedation. Elderly patients with poor general health and those with airway compromise may be at significant risk. We believe that patients with advanced oral malignancy often fall into such groups and, therefore, we routinely perform PEG at the time of resection. The aim of this study was to determine the potential risk factors for PEG insertion in patients with advanced oral malignancy and present our experience with insertion at the time of resection. A retrospective study was undertaken of the risk factors for PEG insertion in 72 consecutive patients with stage IV oral cancer treated between April 1993 and March 2000. Age, sex, tumour site, past medical history, American Society of Anaesthesiologists (ASA) and laryngoscopy grade, as an assessment of potential airway compromise, were recorded. There were 72 patients, 40 males and 32 females, with a mean age of 63 years (27–90). Eighteen patients (25%) scored 3 or 4 on the ASA scores of physical status. Laryngoscopy grades were recorded in 65 patients; of these, 18 (25%) had reduced visualisation of the larynx and in two patients not even the epiglottis could be seen. It is concluded that patients with advanced oral cancer have significant risk factors for PEG placement. However, PEG can be safely performed at the time of ablative surgery and has the advantage of avoiding an additional operative event for the patient.