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From 1975 through 1988, 257 patients with carcinoma of the thoracic esophagus have been treated in our department. Operability was 90% (232/257); overall resectability, 77% (198/ 257), and for the operated group, 85% (198/232). Hospital mortality rate was 9.6% but decreased to 3% over the period 1986 to 1988. There were 65% squamous cell epitheliomas and 35% adenocarcinomas. Tumor, nodes, and metastases (pTNM) staging was as follows: stage I, 11,6%; stage II, 23.2%; stage III, 37.9%; stage IV, 27.3%. Overall survival rate was 62.5% at 1 year, 42.4% at 2 years, and 30% at 5 years. According to the pTNM staging, 5-year survival was 90% for stage I, 56% for stage II, 15.3% for stage III, and 0 for stage IV. There were no statistically significant differences according to tumor localization, pathologic type, sex, or age. Introducing extensive resection and extended lymphadenectomy seems to improve significantly survival in patients in whom an operation with curative intention was performed, the 1 year survival rate being 90.8% versus 72%; 2-year survival, 81% versus 46%; and 5-year survival, 48.5% versus 41% for radical and nonradical resections, respectively. Based on multivariate Cox regression analysis, only TNM stage and presence or absence of lymph nodes are important factors in predicting survival: stage 1 tumors have lower risk, and involvement of lymph nodes creates higher risk. Using this analysis, there was only for the patients with involved lymph nodes (Nl) a significantly better prognosis when a radical lymph node dissection was performed (p = 0.0055). Barrett adenocarcinomas have no worse prognosis than other esophageal carcinomas, with a 5-year survival rate of 91.5% if lymph nodes are negative, and a 54% overall 5-year survival rate. Functional results after restoration of continuity with gastric tubulation were judged excellent to very good in 86.5% at 1 year, but infra-aortic anastomoses have a much higher incidence of peptic esophagitis: 53% versus 8% for cervical anastomoses. From this study it can be concluded that in experienced hands surgery today offers the best chances for optimal staging, potential cure, and prolonged high-quality palliation.