BACKGROUND : Endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD) is an endoscopic alternative to surgical resection of early gastric cancer (EGC). Besides offering both diagnostic and therapeutic capability, it has the benefits of reducing post-operative complications and provides fast recovery and better quality of life compared to surgical resection of neoplastic lesions. However, due to limitations of the procedure, its long-term outcomes are rather controversial. METHODS : This study has been carried out to investigate the long-term outcomes of ESD which includes the overall survival (OS), disease-free survival (DFS), and recurrence rate. The following databases were used to search for articles published until February 2018: Medline, Cochrane Library, PubMed, Web of Science, and EBSCO. RESULTS : A total of 13 eligible studies covering 4986 patients were selected for a meta-analysis based on specified inclusion and exclusion criteria. The difference of OS and disease-specific survival (DSS) between ESD and surgical treatment was not statistically significant (RR = 0.90, 95% CI = 0.68-1.19, p = 0.46; RR = 0.40, 95% CI = 0.15-1.03, p = 0.06, respectively). However, DFS in the ESD group was much lower than that in the surgery group (RR = 3.40, 95% CI = 2.39-4.84, p < 0.001). In terms of the treatment after recurrence, the proportion of patients who could receive radical treatment was significantly higher in the ESD than that in the gastrectomy (OR = 5.27, 95% CI = 2.35-11.79, p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS : This meta-analysis showed that ESD might be an alternative treatment option to surgery for patients with EGC in Asian countries. But a close surveillance program after ESD is of necessity, considering the higher possibility of tumor recurrence after ESD.