The threat of a vascular complication exists in association with any percutaneous arterial catheterization, but is greater in the more complex interventional techniques. During a 3 1/2-year period from January 1985 through June 1988, 4988 percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty procedures were performed at Emory University Hospital. All patients were given heparin during the cardiac intervention, and all had a catheter introducer left in place for several hours after completion of the procedure. Fifty-five iatrogenic vascular complications developed in 52 patients (1%), resulting in 54 corrective operations. Pseudoaneurysm, the most frequent complication, was seen in 35 patients (64%). This was followed by arteriovenous fistula in eight (15%), uncontrolled hemorrhage in six (11%), arterial thrombosis in three (6%), peripheral embolization in two (4%), and bowel ischemia in one patient. The outcome of surgical therapy in the entire group was quite acceptable with no operative mortality, no extremity amputation, and a 7.4% complication rate. Variables that correlated with an increased risk of peripheral vascular problems after percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty included advanced age, female gender, thrombolytic therapy, and postprocedural anticoagulation. Variables that did not appear to correlate were hypertension, diabetes, prior percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, antiplatelet therapy, or the size of the guiding catheter used.