Survival data of patients with pancreatic carcinoma are often overestimated because of incomplete follow-up. Therefore, the aim of this study was to approach complete follow-up and to analyse survival and prognostic factors of patients who underwent surgical treatment for pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Between 1992 and 2002, 343 patients underwent surgical treatment for pancreatic adenocarcinoma. One hundred and sixty patients underwent a resection with a curative intention and 183 patients underwent bypass surgery for palliation. Follow-up was complete for 93% of patients. Median survival after resection and bypass was 17.0 and 7.5 months, and 5-year survival was 8% and 0, respectively. In multivariate analysis, tumour-positive lymph nodes, non-radical surgery, poor tumour differentiation, and tumour size were independent prognostic factors for survival after resection. For patients treated with bypass surgery, metastatic disease and tumour size independently predicted survival. In conclusion, actual survival of patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma is disappointing compared with the actuarial survival rates reported in the literature. The independent prognostic factors for survival of patients who underwent surgical treatment for pancreatic adenocarcinoma are tumour-related.