In this study 50 patients (36 male, 14 female) with oesophageal carcinoma have been examined preoperatively by computed tomography. Three parameters were assessed, nodal involvement, invasion of adjacent organs, and metastatic disease. For all patients the computed tomography findings were correlated with the subsequent surgical and pathological findings. Sensitivity for both invasion and node involvement is low (36% to 67%). Specificity however, is high (85% to 95%). Computed tomography is therefore relatively reliable when it predicts a 'negative result' for either invasion or node involvement. However, its predictive value for a positive result is not as reliable.