The authors compare the level of foot amputation by age, prevalence of arterial disease as a precipitating factor, gender, and ethnicity in persons with diabetes mellitus. Medical records were abstracted for each hospitalization for a lower extremity amputation from January 1 to December 31, 1993, in six metropolitan statistical areas in south Texas. Amputation level was defined by ICD-9-CM codes and were categorized as foot, leg, and thigh amputations. Foot-level amputations were further subcategorized as hallux or first ray, middle, fifth, multiple digit or ray, and midfoot amputations. Only the highest amputation level for each individual was used in the analysis. Of 1,043 subjects undergoing a lower extremity amputation in south Texas in the year 1993, 477 received their amputation at the level of the foot. African-Americans requiring a foot-level amputation were at significantly higher risk to undergo a midfoot-level amputation than was the rest of the population. Nearly 40% of all subjects undergoing a foot-level amputation had a previous history of amputation. However, nearly 40% of subjects undergoing foot amputations had not been diagnosed either before or during admission with peripheral arterial occlusive disease, suggesting a causal pathway dependent primarily on neuropathy. This implies that better screening of diabetic patients with appropriate risk-directed treatment at the primary care level may significantly impact the large number of preventable diabetes-related lower extremity amputations.