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AIM: Comparing the different possible surgical procedures and the results in urgent/emergency and in elective surgery for obstructing colorectal cancer. MATERIAL OF STUDY: From 2008 we operated on 238 patients affected by colorectal cancer, 136 complicated tumours, 115 obstructing and 19 perforated. 23 patients had right-sided and 92 left-sided obstructing colonic tumour, divided retrospectively in 4 groups. 18 decompressive colostomy; 32 two-stages procedures: 25 Hartmann’s operations and 7 total colectomies with terminal ileostomy; 7 one-stage procedures, with defunctioning ileostomy: 4 total colectomies and 3 colonic resections with wash-out; 35 one-stage procedures with primary anastomosis+wash-out or milking. RESULTS: Operative mortality is 7% in urgent/emergency versus 1% in elective surgery and anastomotic leakage affected 6 /58 cases, 5 requiring additional surgery. Overall, about 2/3 of the perioperative deaths were related to general complications and 1/3 to anastomotic failure. The local recurrence rate was 7% in elective and 11% in urgent/emergency surgery. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: Obstructing colorectal cancer is associated with a high operative mortality and a worse prognosis, in terms of recurrence and survival. Actually, immediate resection with primary anastomosis represents the goldstandard in selected patients with a low anaesthetic risk, performing either as a typical resection with wash-out, or a subtotal colectomy; a temporary defunctioning colostomy or ileostomy could be proposed for patients with an intermediate risk; in high-risk cases, advanced obstruction, simultaneous colonic perforation, metastatic or locally advanced disease, Hartmann’s operation should be used, as a safer procedure. Colon stenting can be an useful palliative or bridge-to-surgery option.