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Preservation of the anal sphincters is now consistent with adequate extirpation of the majority of rectal neoplasms. However, there is still a troublesome incidence of leakage through colorectal anastomoses. A number of different factors, working in combination, are responsible for this. Although most problems have been solved, and the mortality is low, the anastomotic leak rate described in the present series, and in the hands of most surgeons, remains high. Efficient suturing without tension, adequate filling and drainage of the presacral space, and antimicrobial prophylaxis effective enough to abolish abdominal wound sepsis, have been applied. The large vessel arterial blood supply to the suture line is good but the microcirculation of the left colon and rectum, upon which suture line healing ultimately depends, is suspect. Reduction of blood viscosity by deliberate lowering of the haemoglobin level before operation has been practised in the hope of improving the microcirculatory flow. The results so far are encouraging and suggest that the method is worth a continued trial.