Resting ankle-brachial pressure index (ABI) is a noninvasive method to assess the patency of the lower extremity arterial system. This study aimed to examine the relation between ABI and the extent of coronary atherosclerosis, the extracoronary atherosclerosis lesions, and the prognosis of patients referred for elective coronary angiography. One hundred sixty-five consecutive patients underwent coronary angiography, ultrasound imaging for intima-media thickness measurement of carotid and femoral arteries and ABI evaluation; subjects were followed up for 14.5 +/- 2.4 months. With regard to vascular risk factors, only smoking (p = 0.025) and diabetes (p = 0.01) were related to ABI in the multiple regression analysis. ABI was independently and inversely related to carotid bifurcation (p = 0.0002) and common femoral artery intima-media thickness (p = 0.018). ABI was related to the extent of coronary artery disease as measured by number of coronary arteries diseased (analysis of variance, p = 0.04) and Gensini angiographic score (p = 0.01). In the follow-up study ABI < 0.90 was a univariate predictor of cardiovascular events (cardiac death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, unstable angina) and revascularization procedures. The estimated cumulative rate free of cardiovascular events was 90% for ABI > 0.90 and 73% for ABI < 0.90 (p = 0.02). In logistic regression analysis, ABI < 0.90 was an independent predictor for cardiovascular events after adjustment for age, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, carotid and femoral intima-media thickness, and Gensini score. Further adjustment for the confounding effect of insulin weakened the relation between ABI and cardiovascular events (p = 0.1). In conclusion, ABI is a simple index related to the extent of atherosclerosis in coronary and noncoronary arterial beds, reflecting generalized atherosclerosis. ABI could be useful in assessing the risk for cardiovascular events in patients with coronary artery disease.