The aim of this study was to identify the age adjusted and level specific mortality rate in African-Americans, Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites (NHW) during the perioperative period following a lower extremity amputation. We identified amputation data obtained from the Office of Statewide Planning and Development in California for 1991 from ICD-9-CM codes 84.11-84.18 and diabetes mellitus from any 250 related code. Amputations were categorized as foot (84.11-84.12), leg (84.13-84.16) or thigh (84.17-84.18). Death was coded under discharge status. Age adjusted and level specific mortality rates per 1000 amputees were calculated for each race/ethnic group. The age adjusted mortality was highest for African-Americans (41.39) compared to Hispanics (19.69) and NHW's (34.98). Mortality was consistently more frequent for proximal amputations. We conclude that mortality rates for persons with diabetes hospitalized for an amputation varied by race, gender and level of amputation. Higher prevalence or severity of risk factors may explain the excess mortality observed in African-Americans.