Pelvic ileo-anal reservoir (ileal pouch) formation is now a common surgical approach to the management of long-standing inflammatory bowel disease. The ileal mucosa in this new environment responds with changes in morphology and histochemical reactivity, as shown by conventional techniques. In this study, pre-pouch ileum and pouch ileal mucosa from 20 patients have been examined with a large panel of lectins using an avidin-biotin-peroxidase technique, with appropriate negative controls and sugar-inhibition studies. Changes were noted between pre-pouch ileum and the pouch mucosa which were complex, and no single alteration was seen in every case. Most variations related to saccharide sequences near the non-reducing termini of O- and N-linked glycans. Many of these were seen with lectins having requirements for terminal fucosyl residues, and to a lesser extent for galactosyl sequences, and were most obvious in the epithelium. Some of the changes occurred with such frequency as to suggest a direct response to surgery, but many of the variations were likely to be adaptive responses, possibly related to inflammation or infection. The changes in glycans were largely additive and could not be explained as a consequence of the actions of bacterial glycosidases. These alterations suggest that reservoir mucosa undergoes an adaptive response to the new intraluminal environment, without frank colonic metaplasia, and some changes occur to a greater degree in patients with pouchitis.