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Total mesorectal excision offers the lowest reported rates of local recurrence for rectal cancer; however, the ability to perform total mesorectal excision laparoscopically remains unproven. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility and adequacy of a totally laparoscopic total mesorectal excision for rectal cancer.A prospective review of all patients undergoing laparoscopic-assisted surgery for rectal cancer by a single surgeon was undertaken. These were compared with a control group undergoing open rectal resections by another colorectal consultant in the unit (n=22). Comparison of total specimen length, longitudinal and radial excision margins, and lymph node yield was made between groups.Of 42 laparoscopic-assisted rectal resections attempted, 14 (33 percent) were converted to open procedures and six had their dissection completed open. One resection was considered noncurative. Twenty-one total mesorectal excisions (50 percent) were completed totally laparoscopically. No significant difference was detected between groups for specimen length, radial margin, or lymph node yield. Longitudinal margin of excision was longer in the laparoscopic group (4 (3.5-5) vs. 2.5 (1.05-3.5) cm; P =0.02, Mann-Whitney). Operating time was significantly longer in the laparoscopic group (180 (168-218) vs. 125 (104-144) minutes; P =0.003, Mann-Whitney). Data are medians (inter-quartile ranges). Four patients in the laparoscopic-assisted group had clinical anastomotic leakage vs. one in the open group (P =0.329, Fisher's exact test). At median follow-up of 38 (range, 6-53) months, one local recurrence had occurred in each group and crude mortality rates were 29 and 23 percent in the laparoscopic-assisted and open groups, respectively (P =0.736, Fisher's exact test).Totally laparoscopic excision of the mesorectum is feasible in 50 percent of patients and where possible yields histologic parameters comparable to open surgery. Early survival and recurrence figures also appear to be comparable.