OBJECTIVE: The objective was to determine whether surgical enucleation of mucinous cystadenoma of the pancreas is a safe and adequate operation. SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: Mucinous cystadenomas of the pancreas are premalignant cystic lesions. Resection is the preferred treatment but often requires a pancreatoduodenectomy or a distal pancreatectomy with or without a splenectomy. Although these procedures can now be performed with a low mortality rate, substantial morbidity still occurs, especially in patients who have an otherwise normal pancreas. METHODS: Between January 1990 and June 1997, 36 mucinous cystadenomas of the pancreas were resected at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Most of these patients underwent pancreatoduodenectomy or distal pancreatectomy. However, 10 patients (28%) underwent enucleation of their cystic tumor. These 10 patients had a mean age of 63 years, and 6 were men. The cystic lesion was demonstrated by computed tomography in all patients. Enucleation of the cyst was performed in each patient, and four underwent another concomitant abdominal procedure. These 10 patients were followed with periodic computed tomographic scans and clinical examinations. RESULTS: Enucleation took less time and was associated with less blood loss than resection. Pancreatic fistulas occurred more frequently after enucleation, but the incidence of major complications was similar between the two groups. Follow-up after enucleation averaged 43 months, and none of the patients developed late sequelae or recurrence. CONCLUSIONS: This experience suggests that enucleation of mucinous cystadenomas of the pancreas can be performed safely and that the recurrence rate is low after this procedure. The authors conclude that enucleation is an adequate procedure for benign cystic neoplasms of the pancreas.