OBJECTIVE To evaluate the combined effects of pain relief by continuous epidural analgesia, early oral feeding and enforced mobilisation on convalescence and hospital stay after colonic resection. DESIGN Uncontrolled pilot investigation. SETTING University hospital, Denmark. SUBJECTS 17 unselected patients (median age 69 years) undergoing colonic resection. INTERVENTIONS Patients received combined epidural and general anaesthesia during operations and after operation were given continuous epidural bupivacaine 0.25%, 4 ml hour and morphine 0.2 mg hour, for 96 hours and oral paracetamol 4 g/daily. No patient had a nasogastric tube, and oral feeding with normal food and protein enriched solutions (1000 Kcal (4180 KJ/day) was instituted 24 hours postoperatively together with intensive mobilisation. RESULTS Median visual analogue pain scores were zero at rest and minimal during coughing and mobilisation, which allowed early mobilisation for up to 11 hours on the third postoperative day. Gastrointestinal function with defaecation had returned to normal in 12 patients within the first two postoperative days. Median hospital stay was five days with minimal increase in fatigue and without postoperative weight loss. CONCLUSION These results suggest that a combined approach of optimal pain relief with balanced analgesia, enforced early mobilisation, and oral feeding, may reduce the length of convalescence and hospital stay after colonic operations.