Background: The use of staging laparoscopy has been highly institutional dependent.We sought to assess the incidence of occult intra-abdominal metastases identified at the time of staging laparoscopy for patients with either potentially resectable or locally advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma (LAPC). We also compared the rate of occult metastases in patients who underwent staging laparoscopy versus laparotomy. Methods: Patients were confirmed to have potentially resectable or LAPC at a multidisciplinary hepatopancreaticobiliary conference. Patients with potentially resectable lesions were initially explored via staging laparoscopy or laparotomy, based on surgeon preference. Results: Over a 4-year period, 25 patients with potentially resectable tumors and 33 patients with LAPC were staged with laparoscopy, with an equivalent prevalence of occult metastases found at laparoscopy (28% potentially resectable vs. 33% LAPC, P=0.8). Fifty-two patients with potentially resectable lesions were explored initially via laparotomy. Occult peritoneal metastases were more likely to be detected in patients with potentially resectable tumors that were explored via laparoscopy than via laparotomy (32% vs. 10%, P=0.018). Conclusions: Staging laparoscopy is more likely than open exploration to detect occult metastases. Current preoperative imaging inadequately identifies unresectable pancreatic adenocarcinoma; therefore, all patients with potentially resectable disease should undergo staging laparoscopy. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.