The purpose of this study of patients with transmetatarsal amputation (TMA) is to describe multiple patient characteristics, including the incidence of subsequent skin breakdown and higher amputation, that may influence rehabilitation treatment and outcomes. Data were gathered on all patients having a TMA at this facility between April 1989 and September 1993. One hundred twenty TMAs were performed on 107 patients with a mean age of 62.4 +/- 13.8 years. There were 55 men and 52 women. Thirteen patients (12%) had a bilateral TMA. Twenty-nine patients (27%) developed skin breakdown. Of these, 48% occurred within the first 3 months after surgery. Thirty patients (28%) required a higher amputation. Of these, 60% occurred in the first month after TMA. In addition, this group of patients had a high incidence of diabetes mellitus (77%), hypertension (54%), electrocardiogram (EKG) abnormalities (60%), congestive heart failure (22%), and prior ipsilateral vascular surgery (51%). These results indicate that patients with TMA often present with a complicated medical condition and that they are at high risk of skin breakdown or higher amputation, especially in the first 3 months after surgery. The investigators conclude that patients with TMA may benefit from a rehabilitation program emphasizing protection of the residuum during their return to functional activities. Additional research is needed to determine optimal acute and long-term rehabilitation of patients with TMA.