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Acute obstruction of the left side of the colon is traditionally treated by colostomy, which entails two or three surgical procedures usually in a high-risk group of patients. We present a new nonsurgical approach by which decompression of the bowel is achieved with a tube introduced proximal to the obstruction with the aid of a flexible sigmoidoscope. This procedure was successful in six of nine patients with left-sided large-bowel obstruction, thus avoiding staged surgery and allowing one definitive operation. No complications were encountered.