We reviewed our recent experience with management of 23 consecutive patients with acute necrotizing pancreatitis. All patients had documented necrotizing pancreatitis with parenchymal or peripancreatic necrosis. Our method of treatment has evolved from our previous approach of controlled open lesser sac drainage (marsupialization) to staged necrosectomy/debridement with delayed primary closure over drains. With this latter approach, hospital mortality was 4 of 23 patients (17 per cent), but significant morbidity still occurred in 12 of 23 patients (52 per cent). However, recurrent intra-abdominal abscess before discharge occurred in only one patient. We believe that this operative approach toward the severely ill patient with acute necrotizing pancreatitis who requires operative intervention will minimize the occurrence of intra-abdominal sepsis.