This study determines whether acid-base data obtained in the emergency department correlate with outcome from major vascular injury. Observational, retrospective record review of trauma patients requiring vascular repair (torso or extremity, January 1988 to December 1997). Data included age, Injury Severity Score, injury mechanism, survival, laboratory profiling, calculated anion gap, strong ion difference, and strong ion gap. Patients were divided into survivors and nonsurvivors with comparison by Student's t-test; significance was assumed for p or = 5 mmol/L, and strong ion gap > or = 5 mEq/L. All of the acid-base descriptors were strongly associated with outcome, but the strong ion gap discriminated most strongly with an area under the receiver operator characteristic of 0.991 (95% confidence interval, 0.972-0.998). The initial emergency department acid-base variables of pH, base deficit, lactate, anion gap, apparent strong ion difference, and strong ion gap discriminate survivors from non-survivors of major vascular injury. The strong ion gap is most strongly predictive of mortality following major vascular trauma.