Between 1980 and 1985, a total of 260 patients with hydatid cysts of the liver have been treated surgically at the Department of Surgery of University Hospital of Ankara. All patients with organ cysts of other than the liver are excluded. In this retrospective study, the results of different surgical techniques were compared with respect to postoperative complications, morbidity, mortality, and recurrence of disease. Patients were divided into 2 groups retrospectively. The first group (I) involved patients treated without drainage (n = 87), and the second group (II) involved patients treated with external drainage (n = 173). Postoperative complication rates were 10.8% in group I, and 65.8% in group II. Mean postoperative hospital stay was 9.9 +/- 0.8 days in group I, and 20.6 +/- 1.1 days in group II. Most of the patients in group II had purulent or biliary discharge from the drainage site (average, 199 +/- 47 days). During the follow-up period, which varied from 1 to 6 years, recurrence rates were not significantly different in the 2 groups. The results strongly suggest that in the management of uncomplicated hydatid cysts of the liver, the surgical techniques which do not employ drainage of the cystic cavity are superior to those which use drainage.