This study was undertaken to determine the impact of an indwelling Foley catheter on bladder dysfunction and incidence of urinary tract infections after total joint arthroplasty. A prospective randomized controlled trial was conducted assigning use of an indwelling Foley catheter (group 1) or intermittent catheterization (group 2) for 48 hours following operation. Postoperative cultures were obtained on days 2 and 5, and the number of intermittent catheterization events and void and catheterization volumes were recorded. Concurrent cost-effectiveness analysis was conducted. One hundred nineteen of 174 consecutive patients having elective primary total joint arthroplasty completed the study. Five of 62 patients (8%) in group 1 and 7 of 57 patients (12%) in group 2 developed urinary tract infections (NS, P = 45). Twenty patients (35%) in group 2 and 12 (19%) in group 1 required straight catheterization for inability to void 48 hours after surgery (P = .05). Seventeen patients (35%) in group 2 and eight patients (16%) in group 1 required straight catheterization after epidural analgesia was discontinued (P = .024). Bladder management by indwelling Foley catheter saved more than 150 minutes of direct nursing contact per patient and $3,000 in total hospital costs. Indwelling Foley catheters reduced the frequency of postoperative urinary retention, were less labor intensive than intermittent straight catheterization, and were not associated with an increased risk of urinary infection. In the setting of epidural anesthesia and postoperative analgesia for total joint arthroplasty, management by indwelling catheter is a cost-effective strategy to facilitate postoperative return of normal bladder function.