The circular stapling instrument has had a major impact in the practice of colorectal surgery. Stapling technology was pioneered in the early part of this century and subsequently modified. Russian initiatives led to development of the original circular stapling instrument and further progress has resulted in instruments that are widely available, reliable and totally disposable. Mechanical failure is now rare and malfunction is generally due to operator error. Complications related to the stapling technique are uncommon, although anastomotic stricture may be more frequent than when handsewn anastomosis is performed. A stapling instrument facilitates and may expedite a surgical procedure but it is an adjunct to, and not a substitute for, meticulous surgical technique.