To assess the functional results of treatment of faecal incontinence we carried out physiological and radiological measurements in 46 patients and 20 controls. Twenty patients were selected for conservative treatment and 26 for surgery (including 17 postanal repairs and 6 anterior sphincter repairs). The degree of incontinence was scored before and after treatment and postoperative investigations carried out on 17 patients (11 postanal repairs). Forty per cent of the conservative treatment group had a successful result compared with sixty-five per cent of the operative group as a whole and fifty-nine per cent of the postanal repair patients. Resting and 'squeeze' anal canal pressures were improved following postanal repair as was upper anal canal sensation but there was no change in the anorectal angle. We conclude that the anorectal angle is not crucial in maintaining continence.