We studied the relationship between the neuroendocrine and inflammatory responses to hip arthroplasty and functional recovery in 102 patients undergoing elective arthroplasty for osteoarthritis. Blood samples were collected for up to 7 days after surgery and analysed for concentrations of norepinephrine, epinephrine, cortisol, interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein. The primary outcome measures were milestones in hospital, times to walk 10 and 25 m, pain on discharge from hospital, and function 1 and 6 months after surgery. Walking distances in hospital were significantly delayed in patients with greater interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein concentrations, but few neuroendocrine measures had significant correlations with functional recovery in hospital. Multivariate analysis showed that the interleukin 6 concentration on day 1 was the unique predictor of time to walk 10 and 25 m, and that the day 2 concentration of C-reactive protein was the unique predictor of pain on discharge from hospital. No significant correlations were found between the inflammatory and neuroendocrine variables and recovery at 1 and 6 months. We conclude that the inflammatory response affects immediate functional recovery after hip arthroplasty.