Abstract The management of patients with intestinal failure has benefited from progress in parenteral nutrition (PN), especially home-based PN. Intestinal transplantation is therefore possible and is now, in some conditions, the logical therapeutic option. Since 1985, more than 180 small-bowel grafts have been done, involving the isolated small bowel with or without the colon (38%), the liver-small bowel (46%) or several organs (16%). Two-thirds of recipients were under 20 years of age, and indications were short-bowel syndrome (64%), severe intractable diarrhoea (13%), abdominal cancer (13%) or chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction syndrome (8%). Of the patients, 51% survived > 2 years after the graft. Patient and graft survival depends on the type of immunosuppression, i.e. cyclosporine or FK506. The results must be interpreted carefully as they represent the first experience in numerous centres using different immunosuppressive protocols, without any randomization. The results from the largest of these centres reflect the current situation more closely. Functional grafts lead to gastrointestinal autonomy (weaning of PN) while maintaining satisfactory nutritional status and normal growth in childhood. Intestinal transplantation is theoretically indicated for all patients permanently or dependent for a long time on PN. However, as PN is generally well tolerated, even for long periods, each indication for transplantation must be carefully weighed up in terms of the iatrogenic risk and quality of life. When PN has reached its limits, especially in those associated with vascular, infectious, hepatic or metabolic complications, intestinal transplantation must be undertaken. Transplantation of the small bowel alone remains the first option, as combined liver-small bowel grafting is only indicated in the case of life-threatening progressive cirrhogenic liver disease.