This retrospective view examines the outcome of surgical treatment of perforated diverticular disease in one hospital in the period 1976 to 1983. Of the 78 patients, 38 underwent emergency colonic resection (group A) whereas 40 (group b) were treated by proximal colostomy and drainage (37 patients) or suture of the perforation with drainage (three patients). There was no significant difference between groups A and B in terms of operative mortality (21 percent vs. 24 percent, respectively). Mortality rates were highest in patients with generalized peritonitis treated by colostomy and drainage (36 percent), whereas those with localized disease undergoing resection had a mortality rate of 17 percent (P less than .05). Eight of the 40 patients in group B developed fistulas whereas none of the group A patients had this complication. Only four (16 percent) of the surviving group A patients were left with a permanent colostomy as opposed to 15 (56 percent) of their counterparts in group B. In the presence of perforated diverticular disease, emergency resection carries a lower morbidity than colostomy and drainage, although the present review shows no statistically significant differences in terms of mortality.