It has been suggested that more otolaryngologic procedures should be performed on an outpatient basis, and that rigid upper aerodigestive tract endoscopy might be a particularly suitable procedure in this regard. To determine if this is indeed the case, we retrospectively reviewed the records of 563 patients who had undergone 655 rigid esophagoscopies in our unit between Jan 1, 1991, and July 31, 1998. We ascertained the rate of complications (primarily esophageal perforation) following such procedures and, when they did occur, we determined the length of time between surgery and the onset of the complications' signs and symptoms. Our aims were to establish the minimum duration of postoperative observation that is required following esophagoscopy and to propose criteria for safe same-day discharge. We found that perforation rates were 4.5% following therapeutic procedures (dilation, biopsy, and foreign-body removal) and 1.2% following diagnostic procedures. In 40% of the patients who experienced perforations, no such signs or symptoms were noted within the first 8 hours following surgery. This finding has important implications for surgeons who wish to perform rigid esophagoscopy on an outpatient basis.