Residual or recurrent medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), manifested by elevated calcitonin levels, occurs commonly following primary treatment of MTC. Re-operation in appropriately selected patients is the only treatment modality which consistently and reliably reduces stimulated calcitonin levels, and results in excellent local disease control. We report improved results of surgical management of recurrent MTC in two consecutive series of patients. In our most recent series (1992-96), 38% of patients (17 out of 45) had normal postoperative stimulated calcitonin levels, compared to 28% (nine of 32) in our first series (1990-92). In the most recent series, only 13% (six of 45) of patients had no decrease in calcitonin levels following re-operation, compared to 31% (10 of 32) in our first series (P = 0.07, Fisher's exact test). This improvement has mainly occurred through better preoperative selection of patients, and the institution of routine laparoscopic liver examination preoperatively, which identified metastases in 10 patients, nine of whom had normal CT or MRI imaging.