We reviewed our experience from 1979 to 1990 with 160 cases of transhiatal esophagectomy for carcinoma of the lower esophagus and cardia to evaluate trends in patient selection, management, and outcome. Patients treated in the past 6 years (n = 110) and those treated before 1985 (n = 50) were similar in terms of age and sex distribution, medical history, and weight loss. The majority of tumors seen were adenocarcinoma, with patients in the latter group having significantly lower stages. Significant decreases in anesthetic time, units of blood transfusions, chest tube insertions, length of postoperative ventilation, incidence of postoperative pneumonia, and length of hospital stay were seen during the past 6 years. Wound infections increased significantly during the same period. The decrease in the 30-day mortality rate from 6% to 0.9% was not significant. Survival rates did not differ between groups, with overall rates of 62%, 40%, and 21% at 1, 2, and 5 years, respectively.