Low-molecular weight heparin has theoretical advantages over aspirin and dipyridamole in maintaining vascular-graft patency by virtue of its better antithrombotic effect and antiproliferative activity on vascular, smooth-muscle cells. We tested the hypothesis that low-molecular weight heparin would be more effective than aspirin and dipyridamole in maintaining graft patency in patients undergoing femoropopliteal bypass grafting. Patients were randomised to receive either a daily injection of 2500 IU low-molecular weight heparin, or 300 mg aspirin with 100 mg dipyridamole 8 hourly for 3 months. 94 patients were randomised to low-molecular weight heparin and 106 to aspirin and dipyridamole. Patients were stratified according to indication for surgery and were followed up for 1 year. Kaplan-Meier estimate of graft patency showed 87% graft survival on low-molecular-weight heparin and 72% on aspirin and dipyridamole at 6 months. At 12 months, the respective figures were 78% and 64%. Stratified survival analysis showed that this benefit was confined to those having salvage surgery (log rank test p = 0.0006); for those having surgery for claudication there was no significant benefit. No major bleeding events occurred in either group. We conclude that low-molecular weight heparin is better than aspirin and dipyridamole in maintaining femoropopliteal-graft patency in patients with critical limb ischaemia undergoing salvage surgery. This treatment should have considerable cost benefits.