Intraabdominal infection remains a common cause of death in surgical patients. Progress in this area with improved survival rates is difficult to demonstrate despite the use of antibiotics, nutritional support, and aggressive maintenance of function of failed organs. This report documents our experience with planned reoperation to cleanse the abdominal cavity in 77 patients with generalized intraabdominal infection. In 34 of the patients, reoperation to cleanse the abdominal cavity was performed every 24 to 48 hours after the first operation until the abdominal cavity was judged to be clean. Forty-three patients underwent a single operation for intraabdominal contamination and were treated expectantly, only undergoing reoperation for signs of recurrent infection. In all patients, the hole in the intestinal tract was controlled primarily by stoma formation at the initial operation to treat intraabdominal infection. Patients with appendiceal disease were excluded. The severity of illness in the two patient groups was compared by a modified acute physiologic score. Planned reoperation was not associated with improvement in survival when compared with patients managed expectantly. Patients managed by planned reoperation had significantly more laparotomies than patients managed expectantly without improving survival. The results of this study disclosed that empiric reoperation to clean the abdominal cavity in patients with generalized intraabdominal infection produced no improvement in survival when compared with observation and reoperation when indicated.