Reversal of a Hartmann's operation can be a morbid undertaking; successful restoration of intestinal continuity cannot be guaranteed. Between June 2001 and July 2006, 35 Hartmann's reversals were undertaken. There were 19 males (54%). Mean age was 54.7 years (range, 14-82 years). Twenty-one (60%) patients had their Hartmann's for diverticular disease, 7 (20%) for anorectal cancer, 4 (11%) for volvulus, and 3 for miscellaneous reasons. Mean length of stay was 7.7 days (range, 3-16 days); 23 per cent required intensive care for a mean 2.3 days (range, 1-4 days). Blood loss was 470 mL, and mean operative time was 4.28 hours (range, 1-8.3 hours). The mean time interval between the original operation and its reversal was 8.9 months (range, 1.4-55 months). Extensive lysis of adhesions was required in 69 per cent, 40 per cent experienced minor complications (urinary tract infections, ileus, and so on), and 38 per cent had major complications (myocardial infarction, leak, hernias, respiratory failure). There was one death (3%). The operation failed because of intraoperative circumstances in three patients (8%). Ten patients (26%) had stomas at the time of discharge of which 3 were intended to be permanent and 7 were temporary. Of the latter, 3 were successfully closed, 3 are awaiting closure, and 1 had complete anastomotic failure requiring permanent diversion. Total failure rate was 10.3 per cent; contributing factors included prior radiation and ultra-low anastomoses.