The clinical and pathologic features of 254 teratomas from 245 patients are reviewed. All patients were 21 years of age or younger and were treated at the Children's Hospital Medical Center from 1928 to 1982. Tumors arose in the following anatomic sites: sacrococcygeal (102), ovary (94), head and neck (14), retroperitoneum (12), mediastinum (11), testes (eight), central nervous system (nine), liver (two), abdominal wall, and back (one each). One hundred twenty-four tumors (49%) were detected in the newborn period. Teratomas characteristically contained elements derived from all three embryonic germ layers. Tumors with any recognizable component of embryonal carcinoma or other malignant germ cell elements at the time of initial surgery were excluded. Immature teratomas were significantly larger than mature tumors in nearly all sites where statistical analysis was possible. The single most important factor affecting prognosis was whether the tumor could be resected successfully at initial surgery. No patient who did not undergo surgery, or in whom only partial resection was possible, survived the disease--regardless of other treatments used. Based upon the experience reported here the authors conclude: 1) complete surgical resection is the treatment of choice for all childhood teratomas; and 2) this is one of the few childhood tumors where decisions regarding adjuvant therapy must be individualized, particularly with regard to site of origin and age of the patient.