Adult Wistar rats were used to investigate the ability of an omental wrap to limit leakage from compromised intestinal anastomoses. Under ketamine anesthesia, a section of small bowel was divided and then reanastomosed using a "control" anastomosis, a "deficient" anastomosis, or an "ischemic" anastomosis, plus or minus the addition of a wrap of omentum. Initially 10 rats were randomly assigned to each group. Nineteen of the 20 rats with unwrapped compromised anastomoses died within six weeks, compared with five deaths in the rats protected by an omental wrap (Fisher's exact test; P less than 0.01). The experiment was then repeated with a sample of rats from each anastomotic group being sacrificed for histologic examination on days 2 to 7, 10, 14, and 42. At the time of sacrifice a dye was injected into the omental vasculature to determine its contribution to the healing anastomosis. An anastomosis could be demonstrated between omental and bowel wall vessels by the third postoperative day. At one week the infarcted bowel edges were being resorbed and the omentum formed a fibrotic cylinder aligning the separated ends of bowel wall. At six weeks the scar became more contracted and the bowel mucosa had started to grow onto its luminal surface. It is concluded from this study that the omental wrap is protective to a compromised anastomosis by providing a biologically viable plug to prevent early leakage and a source of granulation tissue and neovasculature for later wound repair.