We studied a consecutive series of 285 uncemented total hip replacements in 260 patients using the Taperloc femoral component and the T-Tap acetabular component. The outcome of every hip was determined in both living and deceased patients. A complete clinical and radiological follow-up was obtained for 209 hips in 188 living patients, followed for a mean of 14.5 years (10 to 18.9). They were divided into two groups, obese and non-obese, as determined by their body mass index. There were 100 total hip replacements in 89 patients in the obese cohort (body mass index > or = 30 kg/m(2)), and 109 in 99 non-obese (body mass index < 30 kg/m(2)) patients. A subgroup analysis of 31 patients of normal weight (body mass index 20 kg/m(2) to 25 kg/m(2)) (33 hips) and 26 morbidly obese patients (body mass index > or = 35 kg/m(2)) (30 hips) was also carried out. In the obese group five femoral components (5%) were revised and one (1%) was loose by radiological criteria. Femoral cortical osteolysis was seen in eight hips (8%). The acetabular component was revised in 57 hips (57%) and a further 17 (17%) were loose. The mean Harris hip score improved from 52 (30 to 66) pre-operatively to 89 (49 to 100) at final follow-up. Peri-operative complications occurred in seven patients (7%). In the non-obese group six (6%) femoral components were revised and one (1%) was loose. Femoral cortical osteolysis occurred in six hips (6%). The acetabular component was revised in 72 hips (66%) and a further 18 (17%) were loose. The mean Harris hip score increased from 53 (25 to 73) prior to surgery to 89 (53 to 100) at the time of each patient's final follow-up radiograph. No statistically significant difference was identified between the obese and non-obese patients with regards to clinical and radiological outcome or complications. The subgroup analysis of patients of normal weight and those who were morbidly obese showed no statistically significant difference in the rate of revision of either component. Our findings suggest there is no evidence to support withholding total hip replacement from obese patients with arthritic hips on the grounds that their outcome will be less satisfactory than those who are not obese.