The use of conservative or radical surgical procedures in the management of hepatic echinococcosis is controversial. A review of data on 23 patients with hydatid cysts of the liver that were diagnosed between 1935 and 1990 at our institution was undertaken to determine the safety and efficacy of various surgical procedures. In eight patients (group 1), the cysts were treated conservatively by instillation of a scolicidal agent followed by evacuation of the cyst, drainage, or omentoplasty of the residual cyst cavity. Thirteen patients (group 2) underwent radical excision of the cyst by either pericystectomy or hepatic resection. In addition, two patients were treated by combined techniques. Scolicidal agents were used in 18 patients (78%) and apparently resulted in caustic biliary injury and death in 2 patients. Group 1 and group 2 patients had similar complication rates (62% and 54%, respectively) and mean hospital stay (24 and 23 days, respectively). Recurrent cysts, however, were detected in three of six patients who underwent a conservative surgical procedure and participated in follow-up, whereas no patients treated by a radical procedure had a recurrence. Because pericystectomy and hepatic resection resulted in a low rate of recurrence and eliminated the need for use of potentially toxic scolicidal agents, these procedures may be the preferred method for the surgical management of hepatic hydatid disease.