PAODE is an important cause of morbidity and health care expenditures among the elderly. Data from the NHDS and National Vital Statistics System were used to assess its impact in the U.S. In 1985 to 1987, an estimated 229 thousand men and 184 thousand women per year were discharged with any diagnosis of chronic PAODE. Discharge rates were much higher in men and increased sharply with age. Lower extremity arteriography was performed during 88 thousand hospitalizations and aorta-iliac-femoral bypass procedures were done during 31 thousand hospitalizations per year. Numbers of procedures increased markedly since 1979. An estimated 60 thousand men and 50 thousand women per year were discharged with any diagnosis of acute PAODE. Embolectomy or thrombectomy of lower limb arteries was listed for 28 thousand discharges per year. Few deaths were attributed to PAODE. Although these data are limited by likely incomplete reporting and by the nonspecificity of diagnostic codes, they provide an indication of the magnitude of the problem. An aging population and advances in surgical techniques suggest continued monitoring using multiple data sources. Vigorous primary prevention programs are needed to lessen the impact of all atherosclerotic diseases.