The role of extended lymphatic dissection on the prognosis and outcome of thoracic esophageal carcinoma is still controversial. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of three-field lymphatic dissection on the survival and recurrence rates of patients with thoracic carcinoma of the esophagus. Forty-six patients with primary squamous cell carcinoma of the thoracic esophagus underwent esophagectomy with three-field lymphatic dissection between 1992 and 2003. Recurrence and survival rates were examined as well as complications. Overall survival for the patients was 45.6 months and 5-year survival rate was 56%. Five-year survival rates for patients with Stage 2A, 2B, 3 and 4 were 68%, 0%, 53% and 33%, respectively. There was no Stage 1 patient. Mean disease-free survival was 41.4 months. Sixty three percent of patients had node-negative disease (5-year survival rate, 68.9%) and 37% had nodal metastases (5-year survival rate, 33.7%) (P = 0.002). Surgical morbidity was seen in 35 patients (76.1%). Conclusively, lymph node involvement in patients with thoracic esophageal carcinoma is the major determinant of prognosis and survival. Extended lymphatic dissection provides higher disease-free and overall survival rates and our study revealed the highest survival rate for thoracic esophageal carcinoma, to best of our knowledge.