Background We evaluated the role of lymph node (LN) retrieval in pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PA) patients undergoing pancreaticoduodenectomy (PD). Methods We utilized the National Cancer Data Base; Cox regression models and logistic regression models were used for statistical evaluation. Results We evaluated 26,792 patients with PA who underwent PD. The mean LN retrieved in LN(−) patients was 10.8 vs 14.4 for LN(+) patients (P < 0.0001). Greater LN retrieval is an independent predictor of a negative microscopic margin and decreased length of stay. The median survival of LN(−) patients exceeded that of LN(+) patients (24.5 vs 15.1 months, P < 0.0001). Increasing LN retrieval is a significant predictor of survival in all patients, and in LN(−) patients. The relationship of increased LN retrieval and enhanced survival is a nearly linear trend. Conclusions Rather than demonstrating an inflection point that defines the extent of adequate lymphadenectomy, this dataset demonstrates an incremental relationship between LN retrieval and survival.