Numerous studies have established that gastroenteropancreatic endocrine tumours (carcinoids and pancreatic endocrine tumours) resemble a number of other tumours in overexpressing somatostatin receptors that can bind octreotide or lanreotide with high affinity (i.e. possess sst2/sst5 receptors). Recent studies report that radiolabelled somatostatin analogues can be used to image these tumours (somatostatin receptor scintigraphy) and may be useful for peptide-directed radionuclide therapy. In this paper the evidence is reviewed that has led to establishing somatostatin receptor scintigraphy as the initial imaging modality of choice in patients with gastroenteropancreatic tumours. This conclusion is based on an understanding of the results with conventional imaging modalities (ultrasound, computed tomographic scan, magnetic resonance imaging, angiography) available prior to somatostatin receptor scintigraphy and the results of studies demonstrating the sensitivity and specificity of somatostatin receptor scintigraphy. Most important in this regard are the results of studies that have assessed the use of somatostatin receptor scintigraphy on clinical management. Each of these areas is reviewed in this paper.