Recent investigations indicated that hyperthermia has antitumor effects. Several interstitial hyperthermic techniques were developed, and their clinical usefulness and safety were evaluated. However, few authors have attempted to study the use of interstitial hyperthermia for the treatment of pancreatic carcinomas. Therefore the efficacy of local selective thermocoagulation by radiofrequency was evaluated in 20 patients with unresectable carcinomas of the pancreas. A laparotomy and radiofrequency heating were performed in 20 patients with unresectable pancreatic carcinomas after informed consent. Local heat coagulation was induced by a 13.56-MHz radiofrequency pulse, produced by the heating apparatus. Four 2-cm needle electrodes were placed in the tumor, in a square array, at intervals of 2 cm. The heat was then administered for 15 min at a controlled temperature of 50 degrees C in the radiofrequency field (2x2x2 cc). All the patients were evaluated by computed tomographic scanning. Tumor markers in the blood also were assayed before and after the heating. Follow-up computed tomographic scans demonstrated that the tumor mass was enhanced heterogeneously, and after selective thermocoagulation, images revealed a change to a homogeneous low-density area. The blood levels of tumor markers decreased to below pretreatment values in 15 patients. Of the 20 cases treated with thermocoagulation, two had critical complications. One patient had septic shock, and another had gastrointestinal bleeding. The other 18 patients had no significant complications. These observations suggest that the selective thermocoagulation of tumor tissues using this equipment was relatively safe. These results justify further clinical trials for the treatment of patients with unresectable tumors without metastasis, or patients with benign pancreatic tumors such as insulinomas.