During 1981, 123 of 816 patients (15.1%) with rheumatoid arthritis were hospitalized 160 times because of the disease. The mean length of hospitalization was 13.1 days, and the cost $7,845. Surgery accounted for 54.4% of admissions, but 69.2% of costs. The average cost for total joint surgery was $12,287. Most medical admissions (46.6%) were for the diagnosis or treatment of articular disease, but 42.5% were for treatment of side effects of therapy, and 11.0% for complications of RA. The most commonly performed surgical procedures included reconstructive surgery of the hand/wrist (n = 35) and foot (n = 22), followed by total knee replacement (n = 18).