Over a 22-year period, operations were performed on 263 patients for 288 primary benign tumors of major peripheral nerves. The tumors included 85 schwannomas, 197 neurofibromas, and six plexiform neurofibromas. Total removal was achieved in 83 of the 85 schwannomas, and 76 of these patients were available for follow-up evaluation. Motor function either improved or was unchanged in 87% of these patients and 85% of those with pain in the distribution of the involved nerve had either total or partial resolution of their symptoms. Of the neurofibromas, 123 occurred in 121 patients without von Recklinghausen's disease. All tumors within this group were completely excised using a fascicular approach to the tumor. Of the 99 patients available for follow-up evaluation, 90% had either improved or unchanged motor function and 88% had partial or complete resolution of pain syndromes. Fifty-nine patients with von Recklinghausen's disease had 80 tumors removed: 74 fusiform tumors (58 of which were completely removed) and six plexiform tumors. Forty-eight of the 58 patients with gross total removal of fusiform tumors were available for follow-up evaluation, of whom 83% had improved or unchanged motor function and 74% had partial or complete resolution of pain syndromes. All six patients with plexiform tumors had progression of symptoms postoperatively. One brachial plexus schwannoma recurred and was re-excised without subsequent recurrence at the 5-year follow-up evaluation. Several incompletely excised plexiform neurofibromas have recurred with a symptomatic presentation.