Short measures of health status are used increasingly in health services research, yet their sensitivities to clinical change have not been compared with longer, established instruments. In this study, 5 health status measures were administered preoperatively and 3 months postoperatively to 54 patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty. These instruments included the Sickness Impact Profile (SIP)--an established, long measure--and 4 short forms: the SF-36, Functional Status Questionnaire, shortened Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales, and Modified Health Assessment Questionnaire. Scores for physical, psychological, and global dimensions were constructed by aggregating subscales. Sensitivity to change, or responsiveness, was expressed with the standardized response mean (SRM), calculated as the mean change in score divided by the standard deviation of the change in score. The sampling distribution of the SRM was estimated with a jackknife procedure. Preoperative scores were moderately to highly correlated across instruments. The physical and global dimension SRMs of the brief health status measures ranged from 0.85 to 1.27 and were as large as or larger than the corresponding SIP SRMs. The SIP had the highest SRM on the psychological dimension. None of the instruments was significantly more sensitive than the others at the critical value (P = 0.005) adjusted for multiple comparisons. The brief health status measures were equally or more responsive than the SIP after total hip arthroplasty in the physical and global dimensions. Much larger samples are required to demonstrate statistically significant differences in SRMs among instruments.