Anastomotic leak remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality after colorectal surgery, especially with low anastomoses. The aim of this study was to assess outcomes of patients who developed an anastomotic leak after low anterior resection of the rectum for rectal cancer. An Institutional Review Board-approved retrospective review of 89 consecutive patients undergoing open low anterior resection with primary anastomosis for cancer of the mid/lower rectum at a single institution between January 2001 and December 2008 was performed. All patients received neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Proximal diversion was performed in all patients. Perioperative data were collected and analyzed with attention to management and outcomes after development of anastomotic leak. Nine patients (10.1%) developed anastomotic leak. Mean age was 62 years. Mean tumor level was 4.8 cm above the anal verge. Symptomatic anastomotic leak developed in seven (78%) patients. Percutaneous drainage was performed in five (55.6%) patients with an average of 4.4 procedures required for management of anastomotic leak. Five (55.6%) patients required reoperation. Only two procedures (25%) involved laparotomy. No operative procedures were performed emergently. There were no mortalities. Excluding one patient who received completion proctectomy for local recurrence, restoration of intestinal continuity was achieved in five (63%) of eight patients. Mean time to stoma closure was 289 days. The potentially lethal complication of anastomotic leak after low anterior resection for rectal cancer can be managed expectantly and electively in patients who are proximally diverted with the expectation of stoma reversal in the long term.