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Small-bowel resection has been identified as a core surgical skill that all general surgical trainees must acquire. Most of these resections are performed by the unsupervised higher surgical trainee on call. Reviewing 51 small-bowel resections performed over a five-year period in a district general hospital we found that, although the operation carried a high mortality rate (18%) and a high morbidity rate (21%), these had less to do with the operative technique than with the nature of the underlying disease and the hazards of emergency surgery in general. We conclude that small-bowel resection per se is relatively safe and remains a good training procedure.