To determine the factors influencing surgeons' choice of implants for total hip arthroplasty (THA) and total knee arthroplasty (TKA), 650 surveys were mailed to all active members of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons practicing in the United States; 364 surveys (56%) were completed and returned. Analysis revealed that the average number of total hip and total knee replacements performed by the respondents in 1997 was 81 and 97; there was substantial regional variation. The average number of hip implant and knee implant brands used by these surgeons in 1997 was 2.4 and 1.8. Anticipated improvement in clinical results and cost of components were the most frequently listed reasons for changing brands. Surgeons were also queried about cost reduction programs at their particular institution. The most frequently listed strategies for cost reduction of implants included surgeon cost-awareness programs and volume discounting. More than half of the respondents (53.5%) anticipate manufacturers to decrease the cost of implants in the next 2 years. Most of the respondents (93.7%) currently have the ability to choose a particular implant. About half (46.7%) anticipate losing some or all control of this decision in the next 3 years. These respondents foresee their hospitals requiring the use of a discounted implant in the future. An additional survey was completed by 102 consecutive patients scheduled either for primary THA (64) or primary TKA (38) at our institution. When asked about implant selection, 93.1% responded that their orthopaedic surgeon should choose the prosthesis; 5.9% responded that their physician in consultation with the patient should choose the prosthesis. When asked what should be the primary determinant of implant choice, cost or quality, the overwhelming majority (97.1%) chose quality. A small percentage (2.9%) chose cost and quality. No patient chose cost alone. A large number of patients (84.8%) responded that they would pay additional costs if their insurance companies or health maintenance organizations refused to pay for a better but more expensive implant. Most patients realized how expensive components are, and 51% of the respondents correctly estimated the cost of an implant. Orthopaedic surgeons perceive that they are losing control of implant choice in THA and TKA. Cost of implants is one of the most significant factors influencing which implant is chosen. Patients (the true payors), however, overwhelmingly want their surgeons to choose the implant used at surgery, and they want quality, not cost, to be the primary determinant of this decision.