As a result of modern therapeutic and technological advances, the surgeon has the ability to salvage even the most severely injured lower limbs. However, the success of replantation nowadays is no longer measured simply on the basis of restoration of viability but also on functional outcome compared with primary amputation with early prosthetic fitting, the risk to the patient during and after replantation and the overall time of treatment which should not exceed 2 years. Although every major limb replantation has to be considered individually, the decision-making process for reconstruction (replantation/revascularisation) versus amputation with subsequent early prosthetic fitting should be determined by objective criteria. Based on personal experience and an extensive literature search, an algorithm for treatment of amputation or amputation-like injuries to the lower leg has been developed and tested in a clinical study. A 100% viability success rate was achieved. There was not only a significant increase in the percentage of ''functional extremities'' but also a doubling in grade I results. Moreover, there was a 50% reduction in patients presenting a ''non-functional extremity'', and no patient required a secondary re-amputation. The replantation risk (e.g., risk of severe systemic disturbance during and/or after replantation) was about 16.6% (2/12) in our study. There was a significant decrease in the postoperative complication rate and no patient died during or after replantation. Based on our experience, if reconstruction in subtotal or total lower leg amputation is done for a well-selected patient group, good functional results with a reasonable replantation risk and a reasonable time for social re-integration can be achieved. (C) 1996 Wiiey-Liss, Inc.