The early postoperative results of 44 surgically treated popliteal arterial injuries from the Yugoslav civil war are reported. Of these patients, 41 (93%) were males and three (7%) were females, average age was 28 (range 6-45) years. Twenty patients (45%) had gunshot wounds and 24 (55%) explosive wounds. Twelve (28%) suffered isolated vascular damage, while 32 (72%) suffered concomitant bone fractures. Isolated arterial lesions were found in 24 (55%) cases, and concomitant arterial and venous lesions in 20 (45%). Twenty-four (55%) had primary reconstructions after haemostasis in the initial war hospital, and 20 (45%) secondary reconstructions after inadequate primary reconstruction in a regional war hospital. Artery procedures included 19 reverse saphenous vein graft interpositions, 10 reverse saphenous vein bypasses, 12 'in situ' saphenous vein bypasses and five lateral subcutaneous saphenous vein bypasses. The early graft patency rate was 100%, and limb salvage 72%. Major amputation was performed in 28%. Concomitant bone fractures, secondary reconstructions, secondary haemorrhage from an infected graft, and explosion wounds significantly increased the amputation rate (P < 0.01). Eleven amputations were performed after an anatomic, and only one after an extra-anatomic reconstruction (P < 0.01). The authors recommend an in situ or lateral subcutaneous reconstruction in cases of complicated popliteal artery injuries, such as concomitant bone fractures accompanied by massive soft tissue damage, and this type of reconstruction should also be used if infection is present or the procedure is delayed.