The purpose of this study was to evaluate strategies used for surgical management of renal cell carcinoma with a tumoral thrombus extension in the inferior vena cava (IVC). From January 2000 to December 2001, urological and vascular surgeons jointly undertook surgical treatment on 10 patients with renal cell carcinoma and tumor thrombus in the IVC. There were five women and five men, with a mean age of 60.2 years. The limit of thrombus extension, classified according to the Neves and Zincke system, was level I (renal) in one patient, level II (infrahepatic) in one, level III (retrohepatic) in three, and level IV (atrial) in five. Exposure was achieved by chevron bilateral subcostal laparotomy associated with sternotomy in three patients, bilateral subcostal laparotomy in six, and median sternolaparotomy in one. Radical nephrectomy associated with caval thrombectomy was performed in all patients. Cardiopulmonary bypass was used in four of the five level IV patients. The fifth patient was contraindicated for cardiopulmonary bypass. Transesophageal echography (TEE)-guided endoluminal occlusion of the unobstructed infradiaphragmatic IVC was performed in patients with level III thrombus. Clamping of the IVC was performed in patients with levels I and II thrombus. All procedures were assisted by continuous TEE surveillance. No intraoperative gas or tumor emboli were detected by TEE. The mean number of red blood cell units transfused during the course of hospitalization was 9.7 (range 2-22, median 9). One patient died of multiple organ failure on the day 28 after the procedure. The mean duration of hospitalization was 16 days. The mean duration of follow-up was 9.7 months. During follow-up, two of the remaining nine patients died due to tumor recurrence. Tumor recurrence was also detected in one of the seven surviving patients. Surgery for renal cell carcinoma with tumor thrombus in the IVC must be carried out in a specialized facility with the assistance of TEE surveillance and, in some cases, cardiopulmonary bypass. Operative treatment improves the prognosis of renal cell carcinoma with tumor thrombus in the IVC. In patients with level III thrombus, TEE-guided endoluminal occlusion of the unobstructed infradiaphragmatic IVC simplifies surgical management by obviating the need for exposure of the retrohepatic and supradiaphragmatic IVC.