In recent years, our operative approach to ulceration and gangrene in the diabetic foot has changed markedly. We now investigate all such patients for ischemia, even in the presence of neuropathy and localized infection. This strategy is based on a rejection of the concept of a microvascular occlusive lesion, an improved understanding of the pattern of atherosclerotic occlusion, an emphasis on arteriographic delineation of the foot arteries, and increasing success with extreme distal arterial reconstruction, especially vein bypass grafts to the dorsalis pedis artery. From 1984 through 1990, 2883 procedures were performed at our institution on patients with diabetes mellitus. There was a statistically significant decrease in every category of amputation, which correlated precisely with the increasing rate of dorsalis pedis artery bypass. Our indications for surgery, in-hospital mortality, and the bypass-associated amputation rate did not change.