It is essential to submit all lymph nodes from specimens of rectal cancer for histological examination. In a prospective study we compared the traditional method of dissection with the fat clearance technique in 20 operative specimens of rectal cancer. There was no significant difference in the lymph node harvest obtained by either method. The fat clearance technique resulted in a modest saving in dissection time (mean 4 min), but was expensive (pounds 14.00 per specimen) and resulted in an unacceptable reporting delay (mean 3 days). The manual method was cheaper, as effective in identifying nodes and enabled much quicker reporting.