This retrospective clinical study reports on the experience of palliative venting gastrostomy (PVG) in an integrated acute teaching hospital and hospice-based palliative care service over a seven-year period (1989-97). PVG was performed for 51 patients with refractory nausea and vomiting resulting from varying degrees and levels of persisting or intermittent malignant bowel obstruction. There were 32 females and 19 males; the mean age was 61 years (range 25-86 years). All patients had advanced and incurable cancer with intra-abdominal spread, originating from the following primary sites: colon and rectum (27), ovary (16), breast (2), pancreas (2), and other (4). The venting gastrostomy tube was inserted endoscopically by a railroading technique in 46 patients (using a 16- to 20-French Dobhoff PEG tube), at open laparotomy in four cases and under radiological (abdominal computerized tomography) control in one case. Endoscopic insertion was attempted and abandoned for technical reasons in a further two cases. The median survival of all 51 patients from the time of gastrostomy insertion was 17 days (range 1-190). In 47/51 (92%), the symptoms of nausea and vomiting were relieved by the procedure, and these patients experienced restoration of some level of oral soft food and fluid intake. Twenty patients were discharged home, and six died at home. In a small group of highly selected patients, for whom pharmacological measures failed to palliate the effects of malignant bowel obstruction, PVG was shown to be a safe and effective means of abolishing or substantially improving vomiting. Provided that the intervention is appropriate to the given clinical situation and acceptable to the patient, it should be considered.