Postoperative myocardial infarction is a major risk factor in patients undergoing abdominal aortic surgery. Correction of cardiac ischaemia prior to abdominal aortic surgery improves outcome. The morbidity and mortality of 639 consecutive patients were reviewed from an area with poor access to cardiac surgery, operated upon in a single tertiary referral hospital for aortic aneurysm or aortobifemoral grafting. A total of 101 patients with ruptured aortic aneurysm who survived to reach the intensive care unit experienced a hospital mortality of 29%. Multiorgan failure was the cause of death in 48% and postoperative myocardial infarction in 31%. Of the 253 patients with intact aortic aneurysm, which included elective and urgent resection, the mortality was 9%. There was a high incidence of uncorrected pre-operative ischaemic heart disease and myocardial infarction was the major cause of death (62%). Pre-operative myocardial infarction was predictive of postoperative cardiac morbidity and mortality. Of the 285 patients undergoing aortobifemoral grafting the mortality was 3% despite a high incidence of pre-operative ischaemic heart disease. Further reductions in postoperative death from ruptured aortic aneurysm must await improved screening to diagnose and treat the aneurysm before rupture. In patients operated upon electively, improved pre-operative cardiac screening and coronary bypass grafting where appropriate, especially for patients with aortic aneurysm and previous myocardial infarction, may further reduce pen-operative mortality.