Oesophageal perforation is a rare but life-threatening condition with a significant morbidity and mortality. In this retrospective, nationwide study, the results of oesophageal perforation are reported for a well defined cohort, with special emphasis on the incidence, aetiology and results of surgical treatment. 29 consecutive patients (16 males) were diagnosed with perforation of the oesophagus at Landspitali University Hospital between 1980 and 2007. Patients had a mean age of 61 years (range: 7 months-90 years). Type of surgery, complications and survival were recorded. Average follow-up was 76 months. Age-standardised incidence of oesophageal perforation was 3.1/1,000,000 per year during the study period. Out of 29 patients diagnosed with oesophageal perforation, the diagnosis was missed in 5 cases (17%) and first made at autopsy. Iatrogenic injury was the most frequent cause (52%), followed by spontaneous perforation (24%) and foreign body ingestion (17%). Thoracic perforations were seen in 73% of patients, and 14 patients had an underlying oesophageal disease. Nineteen patients were treated surgically, in 16 cases with drainage of the mediastinum via thoracotomy and insertion of chest tubes. The median time from perforation to surgery was 6.5 h and median length of hospital stay was 15 days (range: 9-83). All surgically treated patients survived surgery, and the 5-year overall survival rate was 69%. More than half of all oesophageal injuries in Iceland are caused by a iatrogenic injury. Mortality is significant and is related to a missed diagnosis. Patients treated surgically all survived surgery; however, complications were frequent and their hospital stay was long. © Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York.