Abstract The mortality was found to be lowest in previously nonirradiated patients undergoing radical neck dissection only, that is, 1.5 per cent. The mortality for irradiated patients undergoing radical neck dissections only increased to 6.6 per cent. When radical neck dissection was combined with other major procedures, the rate for the nonirradiated group was 4.4 per cent whereas for the irradiated group it was 8.5 per cent. For the entire series of irradiated and nonirradiated patients having radical neck dissections alone or combined with other procedures, the mortality was 4.2 per cent. This survey demonstrates the need, when discussing the mortality for radical neck dissection, to distinguish between patients undergoing radical neck dissection alone and those undergoing radical neck dissection combined with other major surgical procedures. Also, the mortality of patients receiving irradiation must be evaluated separately from those who have not received irradiation.