Data were collected prospectively from 159 patients undergoing Lewis-Tanner oesophagectomy for carcinoma of the lower two-thirds of the oesophagus and analysed with regard to anastomotic leakage. The 30-day mortality rate was 3.8 per cent and none of these deaths was due to anastomotic leakage. In hospital, mortality was 7.5 per cent. Six patients (3.8 per cent) had evidence of a leak. In four patients this was from the suture line, but in the remaining two it was due to patches of gangrene in the fundus of the transposed stomach and was separate from the anastomosis. Two patients died with an unhealed leak. Anastomotic leaks were minor in three instances and healed with conservative treatment but the fourth required exploration. Gangrene of the oesophageal substitute resulted in gross leakage with mediastinitis and required exploration in both cases. An apparent predisposing cause was evident in five of the six cases with leakage and some of these might have been avoidable. Transthoracic oesophagectomy can be performed with acceptably low mortality and leak rates and may therefore be considered as the treatment of choice for most patients with oesophageal cancer.