Important changes have occurred in the field of upper gastrointestinal surgery in the past few years. The change with the greatest impact has been the introduction of laparoscopic/thoracoscopic surgery in the treatment of the functional upper gastrointestinal disorders. However, new therapies in such diverse fields as bleeding oesophageal and peptic ulcer disease have greatly lessened the role of the surgeon in the elective setting. Malignant disease of the upper gastrointestinal tract has shown a marked swing away from cancer of the stomach towards cancer in the region of the gastro-oesophageal junction. There remains no consensus on the place of radical surgery in the treatment of these conditions.