INTRODUCTION Recent studies have advocated the use of perioperative fluid restriction in patients undergoing major abdominal surgery as part of an enhanced recovery protocol. Series reported to date include a heterogenous group of high- and low-risk procedures but few studies have focused on rectal cancer surgery alone. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of perioperative fluid volumes on outcomes in patients undergoing elective rectal cancer resection. METHODS A prospectively maintained database of patients with rectal cancer who underwent elective surgery over a 2-year period was reviewed. Total volume of fluid received intraoperatively was calculated, as well as blood products required in the perioperative period. The primary outcome was postoperative morbidity (Clavien-Dindo grade I-IV) and the secondary outcomes were length of stay and major morbidity (Clavien-Dindo grade III-IV). RESULTS Over a 2-year period (2012-2013), 120 patients underwent elective surgery with curative intent for rectal cancer. Median total intraoperative fluid volume received was 3680ml (range 1200-9670ml); 65/120 (54.1%) had any complications, with 20/120 (16.6%) classified as major (Clavien-Dindo grade III-IV). Intraoperative volume >3500ml was an independent risk factor for the development of postoperative all-cause morbidity (P=0.02) and was associated with major morbidity (P=0.09). Intraoperative fluid volumes also correlated with length of hospital stay (Pearson’s correlation coefficient 0.33; P<0.01). CONCLUSIONS Intraoperative fluid infusion volumes in excess of 3500ml are associated with increased morbidity and length of stay in patients undergoing elective surgery for rectal cancer.