We have carried out a prospective, randomised study of prophylaxis for heterotopic ossification (HO) comparing indomethacin for 7 and 14 days, acetylsalicylic acid, and fractional (4 x 3 Gy) or single exposure of 5 or 7 Gy irradiation after operation. We initially had 723 patients (733 hip replacements), but after withdrawals there were 685 hips of which 18.4% developed HO; 14% were grade I, 2.9% grade II and 1.5% grade III of the Brooker classification. We compared the results between these groups with those of a matched control series and found that indomethacin, 2 x 50 mg for 7 and 14 days, and postoperative irradiation of 4 x 3 Gy or 1 x 7 Gy, significantly reduced the development of HO compared with the control group. Patients in the acetylsalicylic acid group and those with a single irradiation of 5 Gy after operation developed significantly more ossification than those in the indomethacin and other irradiation groups. We suggest the use of 2 x 50 mg of indomethacin with mucoprotection for seven days as prophylaxis against HO after total hip replacement for all patients. A single irradiation of 7 Gy is recommended for patients who have developed HO after previous operations or to whom administration of indomethacin is contraindicated.