The use of laparostomy in damage control surgery and uncontrolled intra-abdominal infection has been well described. We examined 71 patients who required laparostomy to see if trends in management and outcome could be identified based on the underlying disease state. The underlying etiology included gastrointestinal sepsis (n = 25), pancreatitis (n = 21), or trauma (n = 25). Pancreatitis patients required more operations per patient (P < 0.05). The likelihood and type of closure (fascial, mesh, or none) was related to the underlying etiology: trauma patients were more likely to have fascial closure (P < 0.02), patients with GI sepsis were more likely to require mesh closure, and pancreatitis patients were more likely to have no formal closure (P < 0.02). Only 29 per cent of patients achieved definitive fascial closure. Mortality in trauma patients was 20 per cent, 36 per cent for GI sepsis, and 43 per cent in patients with pancreatitis. Complications of laparostomy included enterocutaneous fistula (16.9%) and abscess formation (7%). Though the use of laparostomy has become more prevalent, it is still associated with significant hospital stay, morbidity, and mortality. In our study, the number of operations and likelihood of abdominal closure appears to correlate with the etiology of the underlying disease requiring use of laparostomy.