The purpose of this study was to carry out a long-term study of the ileoanal anastomosis (IAA) in children and young adults, comparing the straight IAA to the J pouch. One hundred twenty-one young people who had undergone IAA were studied, with 114 available for long-term follow-up. One hundred one were 18 years and under. Forty-nine patients had a straight IAA and 72 had a J-pouch reservoir. There were no deaths. After surgery, three children had intraabdominal sepsis and one had pelvic sepsis, but it did not lead to excision of the IAA. The mean stool frequency in all 114 patients was 5.0 +/- 2.5 per day and 1.2 +/- 1.1 at night. The mean number of stools for the straight IAA was 6 per day and 2.1 at night. The mean number of stools for the straight IAA with balloon dilations was 5.8 per day and 1.2 at night, and for the J pouch it was 4 per day and 1 at night. Patients with both the J pouch and straight IAA had good to excellent sensation, with patients with the J pouch always able to distinguish flatus from stool in 87% of patients and almost always in 13%. Daytime continence was very good in both groups. Moderate nighttime loss of stool occurred in 10 patients, 6 with a straight IAA and 4 with a J pouch. Ninety-five percent of the 114 patients were satisfied or very satisfied, with most children with a J pouch very satisfied. The J pouch remains the procedure of choice in young people.