A 9-year experience with fine-needle aspiration (FNA) in patients with resectable pancreatic adenocarcinoma was reviewed to determine whether this procedure is associated with positive peritoneal cytology, peritoneal recurrences, or decreased survival in patients who had pancreatic resection with curative intent. Forty-one patients underwent pancreatic resection for primary pancreatic adenocarcinoma from July 1987 to February 1996. Nine patients had open biopsies prior to definitive resection and were excluded from this study. Of the remaining 32 patients, 21 (66%) had preoperative computed tomography-guided or fluoroscopically guided FNA biopsy of the pancreas for diagnosis. FNA confirmed the diagnosis of adenocarcinoma in 17 of 21 patients (80%). Fifteen of 21 FNA biopsies were performed in patients who went on to receive neoadjuvant chemoradiation. Twenty-eight of 32 patients (87%) had peritoneal washings at the time of laparotomy. Five patients had suspicious or positive washings (18%), and 23 patients had negative washings (82%). Three of 18 patients (16.7%) who had both FNA and peritoneal washings and 2 of 10 patients (20%) who had no FNA but had peritoneal washings had positive or suspicious peritoneal cytology. Eight of 32 patients ultimately failed in the peritoneum. Six of 21 patients (28%) who had prior FNA and 2 of 11 (18%) who had no prior FNA failed in the peritoneum. Although the number of patients is small, none of these differences proved to be statistically significant. No difference in median survival was observed between the FNA and no FNA groups. We conclude that FNA is a safe and useful tool to confirm the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer when patients are to be treated with neoadjuvant chemoradiation.