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Fifty consecutive patients with obstructive jaundice treated by operation in Canterbury & Thanet Health District hospitals under the care of one surgeon (RECC) over a 6-year period have been studied. The pathology was found to be common bile duct (CBD) stone in 22 patients (44%); pancreatic carcinoma in 15 (30%), 3 of whom also had CBD stones; chronic pancreatitis in 4 (8%); extrahepatic CBD carcinoma in 4 (8%); ampulla of Vater carcinoma in 3 (6%); primary duodenal carcinoma in 1 (2%); and portahepatis obstruction in 4 (8%). The 8 postoperative deaths (16%) were found to be associated with high preoperative levels of serum bilirubin, but all occurred in patients with malignant disease. Complications occurred in 20 patients (40%) and bile culture state was found to be intimately related to the morbidity rather than operative mortality. The study represents a careful audit of the pathology distribution and the surgical management of obstructive jaundice as seen in district hospitals.