Inadequate splanchnic perfusion is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, particularly if liver dysfunction coexists. Heart failure, increased intra-abdominal pressure, haemodialysis and the presence of obstructive sleep apnoea are among the multiple clinical conditions that are associated with impaired splanchnic perfusion in critically ill patients. Total liver blood flow is believed to be relatively protected when gut blood flow decreases, because hepatic arterial flow increases when portal venous flow decreases (the hepatic arterial buffer response [HABR]). However, there is evidence that the HABR is diminished or even abolished during endotoxaemia and when gut blood flow becomes very low. Unfortunately, no drugs are yet available that increase total hepato-splanchnic blood flow selectively and to a clinically relevant extent. The present review discusses old and new concepts of splanchnic vasoregulation from both experimental and clinical viewpoints. Recently published trials in this field are discussed.