aim: cardiovascular diseases are the main cause of death in costa rica. peripheral arterial disease (pad) is considered a silent disease whose health and socioeconomic impact is considered high. since epidemiological studies do not exist in our country, it is difficult to determine the impact of the problem and the guidelines to follow. to estimate: prevalence, rate of mortality and cost of treatment of pad in costa rica. methodos: a descriptive, cross-sectional study was designed, using three main databases, which included 1) all the cases hospitalized with pad during the year 2008 (962 discharged) in the caja costarricense de seguro social (ccss) which treats 96% of the people with this condition, 2) deaths form the mortality population in costa rica concerning the instituto nacional de estadistica y censos (inec) during the years 1997 - 2008, and 3) the “encuesta nacional de salud” survey 2006. the analysis of variance was used to compare the groups under study. results: the prevalence is 0,02 % in patients younger than 50 year old; 2.5% in subjects aged between 50 and 60 and 8.3% in subjects over 60. the analysis by gender demonstrated predominance in male (55%). the mean age for female subjects was 73 years (ci 95%:71,874,3) and for male subjects was 69.6 (ci 95%:68.7-71.0). the mortality rate ratio was 0.6% per 100,000 habitants; the mean death rate was 74 years. the estimate of the potentially lost life years is approximately 10.2 years. conclusion: since the prevalence of pad in costa rica is similar to that of developed countries, it is important to organize strategies to attend this health priority.