In patients with unresectable peripancreatic carcinoma, pain is generally treated with pain medication or with a celiac plexus blockade. Radiotherapy has also been reported to reduce pain. The efficacy of these treatment modalities is still under discussion. The aim of this study was to analyze the effects of the various types of pain management on patients who underwent palliative bypass surgery for unresectable peripancreatic carcinoma. During the period January 1995 to December 1998 a series of 98 patients underwent palliative bypass surgery, mostly for unresectable disease found during exploration. Patients were divided into three groups: palliative bypass surgery (BP), palliative bypass surgery with an intraoperative celiac plexus blockade (CPB), and palliative bypass surgery with or without celiac plexus blockade followed by high-dose conformal radiotherapy (RT). Radiotherapy was performed only in selected patients with locally advanced disease and without metastases, implying a better prognosis of the last group. The pain medication consumption, pain medication-free survival, hospital-free survival, and overall survival were analyzed. The preoperative consumption of pain medication was significantly higher in the CPB group than in the BP or RT group. The postoperative consumption of pain medication in the CPB, BP, and RT groups increased during follow-up from 15%, 17%, and 13% before surgery to 52%, 57%, and 46%, respectively, at three-fourths of the survival time (NS). This increase in consumption of pain medication was not different in the three groups. In the RT group the median pain medication-free survival was significantly longer than in the BP or CPB group (9.3 vs. 3.1 and 3.3 months; p = 0.02). The median hospital-free survival and median overall survival were significantly longer in the RT group than in the CPB group (10.3 vs. 6.8 months, p = 0.01; and 7.1 vs. 10.8 months, p = 0.01). Celiac plexus blockade as pain management did not result in an increase of the pain medication-free survival or overall survival. Therefore a positive effect of a celiac plexus blockade on pain could not be confirmed in the present study. Radiotherapy resulted in increased pain-medication survival, hospital-free survival, and overall survival compared to celiac plexus blockade. These effects are probably partly related to patient selection.