Characteristics and outcomes of recent portal or mesenteric venous thrombosis are ill-known. We intended to compare these features with those of patients with portal cavernoma, and also to assess the incidence of recanalization of recent thrombosis on anticoagulation therapy. All patients seen between 1983 and 1999 were enrolled into this retrospective study if recent portal or mesenteric venous thrombosis or portal cavernoma had been documented, and if cancer of the liver, pancreas, or bile duct, intrahepatic block including cirrhosis, and obstruction of the hepatic veins had been ruled out. The proportion of recent thrombosis was 7% in patients seen before 1990 and 56% after 1994 (P <.05). Patients with recent thrombosis (n = 33) or cavernoma (n = 108) did not differ with regard to age, sex ratio, or prevalence of prothrombotic states and of previous thrombotic events. In patients with recent thrombosis, septic pylephlebitis was more common and the incidence of gastrointestinal bleeding was lower (2.4 vs. 12.7/100 patient-years). Recanalization occurred in 25 of 27 patients given anticoagulation and 0 of 2 patients not given anticoagulation. The probability of recanalization was related to the extent of thrombosis (P =.003). In conclusion, mesenteric or portal venous thrombosis is increasingly recognized at an early stage. The features differentiating recent thrombosis and cavernoma are related to silent onset precluding early recognition and therapy in the latter. Frequent association with prothrombotic states and frequent recanalization on anticoagulation support the recommendation of early anticoagulation therapy in all patients with recent portal vein thrombosis.