Between 1979 and 1990 transhiatal oesophagectomy and reconstruction with stomach was performed in 148 patients with carcinoma of the oesophagus. Ninety-seven patients were men and 51 were women; ages ranged from 21 to 88 years with a mean of 57.4 years. Dysphagia and weight loss were the usual clinical symptoms. The mean duration of symptoms was 14 weeks. Squamous cell carcinoma was present in 129 patients (87.2 per cent), 18 patients (12.2 per cent) had adenocarcinoma, and one had lymphoma (0.7 per cent). In two-thirds of the patients tumours were located in the middle thoracic (50 of 148 patients) or distal thoracic oesophagus (59 of 148 patients). Three-quarters of the patients had tumours determined as stage III. The mean length of hospital stay after operation was 12.8 days. Anastomotic leakage occurred in 15 cases (10.1 per cent). Pulmonary complications other than pneumothorax were observed in 36 cases (24.3 per cent). The 30-day postoperative mortality rate was 8.1 per cent (12 of 148 patients). Respiratory insufficiency was observed as the major cause of death (six of 12 patients). Mediastinitis due to necrosis of the transposed stomach in the mediastinum was the cause of death in three cases. Two-year actuarial survival rates in patients with cervical, upper, middle and lower thoracic tumours were 20, 22, 26 and 30 per cent respectively. Transhiatal oesophagectomy is safe and offers limited morbidity and mortality, although pulmonary complications and anastomotic leakage in the early postoperative period still pose a significant risk, especially for elderly patients in poor condition.