There is now substantial clinical evidence to suggest that portal hypertensive gastropathy is an important source of gastrointestinal bleeding in patients with portal hypertension. Although a relatively uncommon presenting feature in such patients, it appears to become progressively more frequent and important the longer such patients with bleeding oesophageal varices survive after treatment by endoscopic sclerotherapy. It is now being increasingly recognized as the most important cause of haemorrhage after oesophageal varices in such patients. The endoscopic and histological characteristics of the condition are now well established but from a clinical point of view it is important to distinguish it from a number of other disorders. The pathogenesis of portal hypertensive gastropathy is poorly understood; venous congestion secondary to portal hypertension undoubtedly plays an important role but this is not thought to account entirely for the condition since abnormalities in the arterial blood supply are also observed. Many abnormalities in gastric mucosal function have been reported but it is unclear whether these are secondary disturbances or whether they play an important primary role in the development of the condition. Animal studies to date have not been helpful due to the lack of a satisfactory experimental model. Portocaval shunt surgery cures portal hypertensive gastropathy but propranolol has been shown to be highly effective in controlling haemorrhage from this condition and should now be considered the treatment of choice. The mechanism of action is unclear, and it remains to be shown whether other beta-blockers, or indeed any other drugs, are useful in treating this disorder.