PURPOSE: Warthin's tumor is a slow growing tumor found exclusively either in the parotid gland or the periparotid lymph nodes. Although surgical resection is the treatment of choice, the extent of surgery which is most beneficial has remained contraversial. We performed a comparative study of the results between enucleation and parotidectomy groups to evaluate the effectiveness of the enucleation procedure for the surgical management of parotid Warthins tumor. METHODS: Between January 1981 and July 2001, 74 patients underwent surgical resection of parotid Warthin's tumor. We reviewed the clinicopathological characteristics retrospectively and compared the operation time, postoperative complication rate, duration of postoperative hospital stay and recurrence between the enucleation group and the parotidectomy group. RESULTS: The mean age was 57.0 years (19~86 years) and the male to female ratio was 5.7: 1. The majority of the tumors were situated in the lower region of the superficial lobe (89.2%). Bilateral simultaneous involvements of the parotid gland was found in 5 patients (6.8%) and therefore a total of 79 parotid glands were involved. Four (5.4%) of the 79 parotid glands featured multifocal tumors of two or three lumps. Tumor sizes varied from 0.5 to 13.0 cm with a mean diameter of 3.5 cm. Of the 74 patients, 51 (68.9%) were diagnosed preoperatively or perioperatively by means of CT scans, ultrasound, 99m-Tc. scan, fine needle aspiration cytology or intraoperative frozen section biopsy. Of the 79 glands, 46 underwent a superficial (n=39), partial (n=2) or total (n=5) parotidectomy, while enucleation was performed for the remaining 33 cases with single Warthin's tumor. Only one case of recurrence was identified during the follow up period. However the operation time, the postoperative complication rate, and the duration of postoperative hospital stay were all significantly reduced in the enucleation group (P<0.05). CONCLUSION: The enucleation procedure may represent a safe and appropriate surgical method for patients with single Warthin's tumor that is diagnosed preoperatively.