Hypoxia is considered to be one of the main aetiopathogenic factors of diabetic neuropathy. We have examined the effects of the reversal of hypoxia, achieved by revascularization, on peripheral nerve function in diabetic patients with or without clinical neuropathy. Fifty-six patients [mean age 62 (range 30-74) years, 44 (79%) males, 15 (27%) with insulin-dependent diabetes of 20 years (range 1-57) duration, and creatinine level 92.8 +/- 30.9 mumol/l (mean +/- SD)] were tested pre-operatively while 30 (54%) were reexamined at least 6 weeks post-operatively. At baseline the leg scheduled for operation showed worse measurements compared to the control leg when tested for Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments, peroneal motor conduction velocity (PMCV) (33.7 +/- 7.18 vs 35.7 +/- 6.09 m.s-1, p < 0.05) and transcutaneous oxygen tension (37.4 +/- 24.6 vs 52.0 +/- 21.5 mm Hg, p < 0.0001) while no differences were found in the vibration perception threshold and leg temperature. When baseline and post-operative measurements were later compared in the operated leg, no differences were noticed in the vibration perception threshold, PMCV and Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments but the transcutaneous oxygen tension increased significantly (32.7 +/- 27.1 vs 64.6 +/- 14.5 mm Hg, p < 0.001). No differences were noticed in any of the above parameters in the contralateral leg. No correlations were found between changes in transcutaneous oxygen tension and PMCV values measured at baseline and at the follow-up visit in either leg. Similar results were found when patients were stratified according to severity of neuropathy, ischaemia and the level of the bypass. We conclude that although there is greater impairment of nerve function in the more ischaemic leg, reversal of hypoxia does not result in any significant improvement of the nerve function measurements.