This study reports the initial evaluation of treatment efficiency in 75 patients with intermittent claudication who were randomized to three treatment groups: 1) reconstructive surgery, 2) reconstructive surgery with subsequent physical training, and 3) physical training alone. Before treatment, there were no statistically significant differences between the groups in age, sex, smoking habits, symptom duration of claudication, ankle-arm blood pressure quotient (ankle-index), maximal plethysmographic calf blood flow, symptom-free and maximal walking distance, the history of other atherosclerotic manifestations or in the medical treatment. The walking performance was improved in all three groups at follow-up 13 +/- 0.5 months after randomization. Surgery was most effective, but the addition of training to surgery improved the symptom-free walking distance even further. In pooled observations of the three groups, age, symptom duration, and a history of myocardial ischemic disease correlated negatively with walking performance after treatment. In the operated group, the duration of claudication and a history of myocardial ischemic disease correlated negatively with the walking performance. This was not the case when patients were censored if limited by other symptoms than intermittent claudication after treatment. In the trained group, the duration of claudication correlated negatively to symptom-free and maximal walking distance. Ankle-index and maximal plethysmographic calf blood flow after treatment and the change of these variables with treatment correlated positively with both symptom-free and maximal walking distance when results were pooled for all patients. Although this mainly was a consequence of the improved blood flow after surgery, the change of maximal plethysmographic calf blood flow also correlated with symptom-free but not with maximal walking distance in the trained group. The results demonstrate that, compared with physical training alone, operation alone or in combination with subsequent training are superior treatment modalities in patients with intermittent claudication.