We have investigated the oncological outcome of 63 patients with soft-tissue sarcomas of the hand managed at three major centres in the United Kingdom. There were 44 males and 19 females with a mean age of 45 years (11 to 92). The three most common diagnoses were synovial sarcoma, clear cell sarcoma and epithelioid sarcoma. Local excision was carried out in 45 patients (71%) and amputation in 18 (29%). All those treated by amputation had a wide margin of excision but this was only achieved in 58% of those treated by local excision. The risk of local recurrence was 6% in those treated by amputation compared with 42% for those who underwent attempted limb salvage. An inadequate margin of excision resulted in a 12 times greater risk of local recurrence when compared with those in whom a wide margin of excision had been achieved. We were unable to demonstrate any role for radiotherapy in decreasing the risk of local recurrence when there was an inadequate margin of excision. Patients with an inadequate margin of excision had a much higher risk of both local recurrence and metastasis than those with wide margins. The overall survival rate at five years was 87% and was related to the grade and size of the tumour and to the surgical margin. We have shown that a clear margin of excision is essential to achieve local control of a soft-tissue sarcoma in the hand and that failure to achieve this results in a high risk of both local recurrence and metastatic disease.