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Ninety-seven patients underwent Hartmann's procedure between 1981 and 1986 at the University Hospital, Nottingham. Sixty-one (63%) required this operation as an emergency procedure. There was an overall mortality of 22% and the morbidity rate was 56%. Infective and cardiovascular problems accounted for 77% of all complications encountered reflecting the age and underlying condition of the patients requiring this procedure. Thirty patients had successful restoration of intestinal continuity, the majority of these having their original procedure performed as an emergency for benign disease. There were no immediate postoperative deaths from reanastomosis and few short- or long-term anastomotic problems, however there was again considerable postoperative morbidity.