It is well stated in the literature that medical treatment for peptic ulcer is based on a combination of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and antibiotics to eradicate Helicobacter pylori. This treatment is associated with a high rate of immediate success and a low rate of recurrence at 12 months, although it is not effective in all patients. Peptic ulcer (PU) perforation is a serious problem that leads to high complication and mortality rates. Surgical treatment, with its various possibilities, constitutes the ideal treatment. Surgical intervention in these cases, however, can be directed to treating the perforation alone, or it can offer definitive treatment of the ulcer itself. With the hope of establishing why such complications and mortality were seen in the patients in our hospital population, we gathered the facts about PU perforations and the types of surgery performed. We studied 210 consecutive patients (150 men, 60 women) who had undergone surgery at our hospital because of perforation between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 2000. The patients' median age was 53.0 +/- 20.6 years (men 47.7 +/- 17.3 years; women 66.3 +/- 22.0 years). Altogether, 86 patients had significant associated illnesses, 62 were admitted more than 24 hours after the perforation, and 25 were admitted in shock. We performed resections in 10 patients; 88 patients were treated by suturing the perforation with or without a patch of epiploon; and 112 underwent a troncular vagotomy with drainage (VT + Dr). A total of 21 patients died (10%). Significant risk factors that led to complications were identified by statistical studies. They were a perforation that had been present more than 24 hours, the coexistence of significant associated illnesses, and resection surgery. The significant risk factors that led to death were the presence of shock at admission, the coexistence of significant illnesses, and resection surgery. There was no statistically significant difference concerning morbidity and mortality between simple closure of the perforation and definitive surgery (VT + Dr).