We studied 55 patients who had undergone elective removal of forearm plates between 1980 and 1986; 44 plates were removed from the radius and 37 from the ulna. Before removal only 20 patients (36%) had definite symptoms attributable to the plates, but 44 patients (80%) were advised by the surgeon to have the plates removed. In 22 cases (40%) the operation was followed by a significant complication. The complication rate was higher with junior surgeons and was permanent in 50% of cases. It is recommended that forearm plates should be removed only if they are causing significant symptoms, and that the operation should not be delegated to the most junior surgeon.