The usefulness of computed tomography (CT) in the diagnosis of fish bone impaction in the oesophagus was evaluated. Thirty-two patients were examined by plain X-ray followed by direct oesophagoscopy for suspected fish bone impaction. Among 25 cases in which fish bones were actually removed, foreign bodies were not clearly demonstrated by plain X-ray in 14 cases (56 per cent). Eleven cases underwent CT prior to the oesophagoscopic examination. Fish bones were clearly demonstrated by CT in all patients. CT also clearly visualized secondarily-induced inflammatory changes in the neighbouring structures. In order to confirm this result, we made a simulation model of oesophageal fish bone impaction, using fish bones of three different species surrounded by a water bag. In comparison with plain X-ray, CT depicted a superior image of fine fish bones and provides extremely useful information for the management of impacted fish bones in the oesophagus.