A retrospective survey of 38 ovarian cancer patients who developed radiologically confirmed intestinal obstruction was performed. Twenty-six patients underwent surgery. In the surgical treatment group, obstruction was not due to recurrent disease in six cases. The median survival for the group as a whole was 56 days. Patients in the operative group survived significantly longer than those in the non-operative group. There was an operative mortality of 15% and major postoperative morbidity was seen in 42%. Neither the site of the obstruction nor the type of operation influenced survival. No postoperative chemotherapy responses were seen in previously treated patients.