Patients with advanced peripheral vascular disease have an increased cardiac morbidity and mortality. The aim of this study was to assess the predictive value of rest and stress echocardiography for perioperative and late cardiac events in 110 patients undergoing limb revascularization. All patients underwent preoperative clinical and echocardiographic evaluation at rest and by dipyridamole stress testing to assess cardiac risk. Patients with > or =3 clinical Eagle markers, low left ventricular ejection fraction at rest, or positive dipyridamole stress test results were considered at high cardiac risk. To record adverse cardiac events, all patients were monitored during and after surgery, and followed for at least 1 year after hospital discharge. Cardiac complications occurred in 10 patients (9.7%) perioperatively (2 fatal myocardial infarctions), and in 13 (13%) at 1-year follow-up (7 fatal myocardial infarctions). Echocardiographic evaluation was the best predictor of early (p <0.00003) and late (p <0.0003) cardiac complications. No patient with a negative dipyridamole stress test result and good left ventricular ejection fraction had cardiac complications, either postoperatively or during follow-up. Clinical evaluation does not appear sufficiently sensitive for predicting perioperative cardiac events, but was valuable in predicting late cardiac complications (p <0.0002). Our data show that echocardiographic evaluation of resting dysfunction and of the ischemic response to dipyridamole is a good predictor of perioperative cardiac risk, and is superior to generally available clinical data. Echocardiographic evaluation is useful in defining a low-risk group of patients who can safely undergo limb revascularization, whichever surgical procedure is proposed.