Between 1948 and 1980, 107 of 164 patients survived after repair of congenital diaphragmatic defects. To study chest wall and spinal deformities among these patients, 60 survivors (mean age, 29.6 +/- 9.0 years) underwent clinical examination, chest and spinal radiography, spirometry, and diffusing capacity measurements. Twenty-seven of these patients also had body pletysmography, xenon 133 radiospirometry, and a test for bronchial hyperreactivity. Chest asymmetry was present in 29 patients (48%). Eleven patients (18%) had pectus excavatum, and one had a pectus carinatum deformity. Anterior asymmetry, pectus deformities, and a flat chest were more common among the patients who initially had a large diaphragmatic defect. Two patients underwent anterior thoracoplasty because of their deformities. Sixteen patients (27%) had significant scoliosis (Cobb angle > or = 10 degrees). Scoliosis was more common in patients with ventilatory impairment than in those with normal lung function. One patient required spinal stabilization, one with severe kyphoscoliosis remains under observation, and a patient with moderate scoliosis was treated with a spinal brace. The results of this study indicate that chest wall deformities and scoliosis are common among adults with repaired congenital diaphragmatic defects. In most patients the deformity is mild, but some will require surgery. Surveillance until adulthood is appropriate.