Between 1960 and 1990, resection was performed in 23 of 122 patients who underwent surgical treatment for hilar cholangiocarcinoma. Local excision of the lesion alone was performed in 10 cases (43%). Hepatic resection for tumor extending to the secondary bile ducts or hepatic parenchyma was performed in 13 cases (57%): extended right hepatectomy (3), right hepatectomy (1), extended left hepatectomy (6), left hepatectomy (2), and left lobectectomy (1). In three other cases, resection by total hepatectomy and liver transplantation was performed, but these were not included in the analysis of results for resection. Significant operative complications occurred in only two cases (8.7%), and the operative mortality rate was zero. In four cases, complete excision of the tumor could not be achieved macroscopically (macroscopic curative resection rate 19/122; 15.6%). In nine cases, the margins of the resected specimens were free from tumor on histologic examination (microscopic curative resection rate, 9/122; 7.4%). In 10 cases, the resection margins were found to contain tumor on histologic examination. The overall survival rate was 87% at 1 year, 63% at 2 years, and 25% at 3 years (median survival, 24 months). The survival and freedom from recurrence rates for patients with free resection margins was superior to that for patients with involved resection margins or residual macroscopic disease. A potentially curative resection, with histologically negative margins and no recurrence to date, was achieved in seven patients using the following procedures: local excision for two type I lesions; left hepatectomy plus excision of segment 1 for two type IIIb lesions and one type IV lesion; right hepatectomy and right hepatectomy plus excision of segment 1 for two type IIIa lesions. These results indicate that improved survival in hilar cholangiocarcinoma can be achieved by resection, with minimal morbidity and zero mortality rates, if histologically free resection margins are obtained. To achieve this, we recommend the following procedures for each type of lesion, based on our experience and on anatomic considerations: local excision for type I; local excision plus resection of segment 1 for type II; local excision, resection of segment 1, and right or left hepatectomy for types IIIa and b; hepatectomy plus liver transplantation for type IV.