Background: Much attention has been paid to the management of acute leg ischaemia. Acute arm ischaemia is perceived as less of a problem because the risk of limb loss is lower. After conservative treatment up to half the patients have late symptoms, such as forearm claudication. Methods: This study was a review of all published English language data on acute arm ischaemia. The entire Medline database was searched and other references were derived from the material perused. There were no randomized or controlled studies. Results: The incidence of acute arm ischaemia is one-fifth that of acute leg ischaemia. Patients with arm ischaemia tended to be older with a mean age of 74 years compared with 70 years for acute leg ischaemia. Since the development of the embolectomy catheter, embolectomy can be performed in most patients under local anaesthetic. Collected outcome included successful restoration of the circulation in 65-94 per cent of patients and amputation in 0-18 per cent. The mortality rate ranged from 0 to 19 per cent, despite the use of local anaesthesia, mostly from associated cardiac disease. Management by a vascular specialist may be beneficial, particularly in complex cases. Conclusion: An active approach to the management of acute arm ischaemia is safe and effective and reduces the risk of late disabling symptoms.