One hundred consecutive patients with injuries to the extraperitoneal rectum were treated over a ten-year period at an urban trauma center. The mechanisms of injury included firearms in 82 patients, stab wounds in 3 patients, a variety of other penetrating injuries in 10 patients, and in 5 patients the injuries resulted from blunt trauma. Treatment of the rectal injury was determined by the bias of the operating surgeon, the condition of the patient, and the magnitude of the rectal injury. Proximal loop colostomies were performed in 44 patients, diverting colostomies in 51 patients, Hartmann's procedure in 4 patients, and an abdominoperineal resection in 1 patient. Extraperitoneal rectal perforations were closed in 21 patients and the rectum was irrigated free of feces in 46 patients. Transperineal, presacral drainage was used in 93 patients. Infectious complications potentially related to the management of the rectal wound occurred in 11 patients (11%) and included abdominal or pelvic abscesses (4 patients), wound infections (6 patients), rectocutaneous fistulas (3 patients), and missile tract infections (2 patients). Four patients (4%) died as a result of their injuries. Of the therapeutic options available, statistical analysis revealed that only the failure to drain the presacral space increased the likelihood of infectious complications (p = 0.03); however, as it could not be determined with certainty that the use of, or failure to use, any particular therapeutic option had an effect on the risk of death. It is concluded that colostomy and drainage are the foundations of the successful treatment of civilian injuries to the extraperitoneal rectum. The use of adjuncts such as diverting colostomies, repair of the rectal wound, and irrigation of the rectum has little effect on mortality and morbidity.