As more infants with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) survive by means of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), new clinical observations are being made. We report anatomic and functional abnormalities of the esophagus in these infants. Twenty-two of 30 infants with CDH survived. Three of 7 non-ECMO-treated infants and 14 of 17 ECMO-treated infants had an air- or fluid-filled mediastinal mass that was confirmed by an upper gastrointestinal series as ectatic esophagus. Contrast studies demonstrated severe gastroesophageal reflux. Intra-esophageal pH monitoring confirmed significant reflux (Euler scores greater than 50) in 69% of tested patients. Prolonged acid clearance in most patients implied abnormal peristalsis. Hydramnios was correlated to the observed esophageal abnormalities, being present in 13 of 16 infants with an available amniotic history. All patients had symptomatic gastroesophageal reflux managed without antireflux surgery and were discharged 36 +/- 2 days after initiation of feeding. Follow-up (range: 7 to 56 months; mean: 32 months) showed that weight gain in affected children was slower than in those not affected. All but one are asymptomatic. Repeat upper gastrointestinal series shows persistent ectasia but less gastro-esophageal reflux. Gastroesophageal reflux/ectasia is a new observation with CDH. The associated hydramnios may result from proximal foregut obstruction by kinking the gastroesophageal junction with CDH. The radiographic appearance can be quite unusual. Clinical manifestations of gastro-esophageal reflux are manageable without surgery but may account for the observed compromised growth.