In persistent, clinically inapparent medullary thyroid carcinoma, microsurgical dissection of all lymph node compartments of the neck was performed. Between August 1988 and September 1991, 28 cases (mean age 43.3 years) were treated with 38 surgical interventions. Twenty patients had the sporadic form and eight patients the familial form. Unilateral neck dissection resulted in normalization of serum calcitonin (CT) levels even after pentagastrin stimulation in two patients whereas 16 patients exhibited abnormal CT stimulation tests. Eight of ten patients who had bilateral neck dissections had positive pentagastrin test results after surgery. The main postoperative complications included loss of local cutaneous sensation, generally temporary, and unilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis.