The results of arterial embolectomy with the Fogarty balloon catheter in patients over 70 years of age with acute ischaemia of the lower limbs were evaluated. Twenty-three geriatric patients from long-stay wards, median age 81 years, range 70-92, were compared with 45 independent patients, median age 81 years, range 70-91, living in their own homes. The period of ischaemic symptoms before admission was on average shorter for patients coming from long-stay wards, but the outcome was less successful. Recurrent occlusion during the first postoperative month took place in 12 patients (52%) from long-stay wards as compared to eight (18%) among independent patients (p 0.2). After six months, only 35% of patients from geriatric institutions were alive with a functional extremity as compared to 62% in the independent group (p > 0.01).