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To perform a systematic review of the published reports on retained colorectal foreign bodies (CFBs) to collate the features and formulate a simple management plan based on the available evidence.An extensive search was carried out to identify articles on CFBs. The search was carried out on electronic databases Cinahl, Embase, Medline, PubMed and PsychInfo from 1950 to January 2009. Internet journals were also scoured and a general search was carried out using the search engine ‘Google’. Papers published in languages other than English were not included.This review covers a total of 193 patients with 196 presentations. There were 188 men and 5 women, a ratio of approximately 37:1. The mean age at presentation was 44.1 years (SD 16.6) in the single case reports and 39.3, 40 and 60.8 years in the three case series. Household objects, such as bottles and glasses, accounted for the largest percentage (42.2%) of inserted objects. Presentation for treatment occurred most often within 24 h of insertion and the majority of objects were removed transanally using manual manipulation with or without the use of a variety of tools, or via a scope.The incidence of CFBs is disproportionately higher in men. Various techniques for removal are available, including some that are minimally invasive. The appropriate technique will depend on the size and surface of the retained object and the presence of complications such as perforation or obstruction.