In our institution, segmental Crohn's colitis has been treated with segmental colectomy rather than more extensive resection. The purpose of this study was to review the rate of recurrence following surgical treatment of Crohn's colitis using this approach. From 1974 through 1984, 37 patients with Crohn's disease limited to the colon or rectum underwent resection. Average time of follow-up was 5.5 years. There were recurrences in 13 (62%) of 21 patients treated by segmental colectomy and four (67%) of six patients treated by total abdominal colectomy and small-bowel recurrences in two (20%) of ten patients treated by proctocolectomy. Intestinal continuity was maintained in 17 (81%) of the 21 patients treated by segmental resection. Although recurrence is likely, segmental colectomy improves the quality of life by delaying the need for a stoma and by preserving functioning bowel.