The transcutaneous oxygen pressure (tcPO2) was measured by a polarographic technique in the legs of 161 volunteers and compared with the levels found in 62 patients with ischaemic skin due to peripheral vascular disease. The results show that the tcPO2 was related to the degree of ischaemia and, in many cases, was a more accurate guide to the viability of the skin than clinical assessment. Measurement of the transcutaneous oxygen pressure in the leg at the site of amputation in 24 patients with peripheral vascular disease showed that a preoperative level greater than 40 millimetres of mercury at an electrode temperature of 44 degrees Celsius was necessary for the skin of the stump to heal. The technique is simple, non-invasive and reliable. The tcPO2 accurately reflects the physiological and pathological changes in the circulation of the skin. It has potential in many fields of surgery where careful assessment of the viability of the skin is necessary.