The choice of reconstruction after gastrectomy and the significance of remaining reservoir function is a matter of controversy. To broaden the criteria for choice of treatment, we conducted a prospective randomized clinical trial to determine the impact of various gastrectomy procedures on quality of life. Consecutive patients (n = 64) eligible for curative gastric cancer surgery were randomized to have either a total (n = 31) or subtotal (n = 13) gastrectomy or a jejunal S-shaped pouch (n = 20) implanted as a gastric substitute. The quality-of-life evaluation was based on a battery of questionnaires covering both general and specific aspects of life. The patients were rated by one of two psychiatrists who were blinded to the patients' group affiliation. Assessments were made on three occasions: during the week prior to surgery and 3 and 12 months after the surgical intervention. The postoperative complication and mortality rates were similar in all treatment groups, with few serious complications recorded. Irrespective of type of treatment, the patients suffered from alimentary symptoms and functional limitations in everyday life, whereas their mental well-being improved after surgery. Patients who underwent subtotal gastrectomy had the best outcome, especially with respect to complaints of diarrhea. Patients given a gastric substitute after gastrectomy showed no difference from those who had only a total gastrectomy. We conclude that despite significant unfavorable consequences that follow gastrectomy, patients recover with an improved mental status. A pouch reconstruction after total gastrectomy does not improve quality of life, but a subtotal gastrectomy has advantages that must be considered when the procedure is clinically feasible.