The effect of the timing of operative treatment on the mortality and morbidity of a consecutive series of 230 patients with intertrochanteric fractures of the femur has been studied. It was found that the mortality rate was not influenced by the timing of surgical treatment. Loss of mobility and the frequency of pressure sores and chest infections were also not influenced by the timing of surgery. Those patients who underwent early operative treatment had a lower rate of urinary tract infection, but this was partially due to the better general health of these patients. It is concluded that the timing of operative treatment of these fractures is not an important determinant of outcome.