Background: Acute left-sided colonic obstruction is a surgical emergency whose management is controversial. Because experience using expandable metal stents for relief of this type of obstruction is limited, we evaluated their effectiveness, feasibility, safety, and outcome. Methods: Twenty-five patients with acute colorectal obstruction underwent placement of various metal stents under fluoroscopic and endoscopic guidance. On an intent-to- treat basis, stents were placed for decompression before one-stage surgical resection in 10 patients and palliatively in 15 patients. Two preoperative patients had unresectable malignant disease, and stents were left for palliation resulting in 17 palliative and 10 preoperative patients for analysis. Results: Stent placement was technically successful in 94% of patients. Overall effectiveness in relieving obstruction was 85% (palliative 82%, preoperative 90%). In the palliative group, stent duration ranged from 2 to 64 weeks (mean 17.3 weeks). Major complications occurred in 7 patients (30%). Conclusions: Expandable metal stents are a feasible, effective adjunct and alternative to surgery for acute colorectal obstruction.