We present a case of ischaemic hand injury in a patient, who had 95% occlusion of both the ulnar and radial arteries, after atraumatic placement of a left radial artery catheter. The presence of cigarette burns on the dorsum of the hand was highly suggestive of vascular compromise. There were no signs of vascular compromise after placement of the arterial line which was removed 24 hr later. Ten days after placement the patient complained of pain with ensuing ischaemic changes resulting in necrosis of the finger tips and eventual amputation of the hand. We recommend using other sites of arterial access such as axillary or superficial temporal artery in patients with severe peripheral vascular disease.