Although pneumatic dilatation (PD) has been an established treatment for achalasia for decades, there is limited information on its long-term clinical efficacy. We have followed up the clinical status of patients having PD with a 30- or 35-mm balloon by one of us (D.O.C.) over a 25-year period. Of 144 patients whose initial records were available for review, 31 could not be contacted. Of the remaining 113 patients, 72 (64%) responded to a questionnaire assessing swallowing status and patient satisfaction, and this forms the basis of this report. There were 32 men and 40 women, with mean age 46 years (range: 17-78); mean length of follow-up since PD was 6.5 years (range: 10 months to 25 years). Success was primarily defined by the need for no additional therapy for achalasia other than one or two PD's. PD was effective long-term treatment in 61/72 patients (85%); only four of these required a second PD over this time interval. There was no significant difference in any of the following parameters between patients with a treatment success or failure: age, sex, size of pneumatic dilator, and duration of symptoms prior to PD. Response was significantly better (P < 0.05) in patients having no prior dilatation (43/47; 91%) than in those in whom another physician had performed prior dilatation (18/25; 72%). In response to the question of whether they would select PD again, 68 patients (94%) responded positively. In conclusion, pneumatic dilatation performed using a consistent technique by an experienced physician is effective long-term therapy for achalasia patients of all ages. Most patients require only one dilatation.