One hundred seventy patients with gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors were treated at Ochsner Clinic from 1958 to 1990. Ninety-four rectal carcinoid tumors were diagnosed and treated during this time. Carcinoid tumors of the rectum represented the most frequent primary site (55 percent), followed by carcinoids of the ileum (12 percent), appendix (12 percent), colon (6 percent), stomach (6 percent), jejunum (2 percent), pancreas (2 percent), and other (5 percent). One-half of rectal carcinoids were discovered during anorectal examination of asymptomatic patients. The remainder were found primarily by examination of patients for symptoms of benign anorectal conditions. The diagnosis of rectal carcinoid was made at the time of initial examination in 61 patients. This allowed definitive treatment in a single session by local excision and fulguration in 48 patients. The remainder were treated by repeat biopsy and fulguration (25 patients) or by transanal excision (12 patients). Overall, 85 carcinoid tumors of the rectum measuring less than 2 cm were treated by local excision and fulguration or by transanal excision, with an average five-year follow-up. There were no local recurrences. Ten patients with metastasizing rectal carcinoids averaging 4 cm were treated. All were symptomatic at presentation and fared poorly despite radical surgery. Three were alive at three years but only one survived five years. At our institution, rectal carcinoids were the most frequently detected carcinoid tumor. Small carcinoids of the rectum were adequately treated by local excision and fulguration or by transanal excision, with no local recurrence. The true incidence of rectal carcinoids is detected only with careful and complete rectal examination of the asymptomatic screening population by experienced surgeons. With more widespread screening of the well population, rectal carcinoids may become recognized as the most frequent human carcinoid tumor.