Preoperative ERCP was performed on 39 patients treated surgically for pancreatic pseudocysts from 1970 to 1982 at the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center. ERCP-related sepsis was rare (4 percent of patients) and only occurred when surgery was delayed for more than 24 hours. The primary benefit of preoperative ERCP was to provide detailed information on pancreatic and biliary ductal anatomic characteristics other than those specifically related to the pancreatic pseudocyst. These data influenced the choice of operation in 49 percent of the patients. Specific preoperative surgical planning was facilitated and intraoperative pancreatography and cholangiography were obviated. Major postoperative complications occurred in 21 percent of the patients (0 percent mortality) but none were considered to be related to preoperative ERCP. ERCP before operation is a safe and important adjunct to surgical management of pancreatic pseudocysts. We strongly believe, however, that the interval from ERCP to surgery should not exceed 24 hours.