Forty-five patients with histologically proven Barrett's columnar-lined oesophagus (CLO) were treated in one unit over a 9-year period. Patients were studied prospectively as part of a surveillance programme; all initially received standard conservative treatment including high-dose H2-receptor antagonists. A satisfactory initial response was seen in 21 patients, but in 24 the symptoms were unchanged or progressed; 19 patients in the latter group were considered suitable for antireflux surgery and underwent fundoplication. Symptoms of heartburn or dysphagia persisted or recurred in 88 per cent of patients receiving medical treatment alone and complications developed in 38 per cent, including nine strictures and one adenocarcinoma. In patients undergoing antireflux surgery, symptoms persisted or recurred in 21 per cent and complications developed in 16 per cent (P < 0.01). Complete regression of Barrett's CLO occurred in two patients (11 per cent) after antireflux surgery. The results of this study suggest the superiority of antireflux surgery over pharmacological acid suppression in the control of symptoms and prevention of complications in patients with Barrett's CLO.