Avascular necrosis of the femoral head is a multifaceted process that leads to articular incongruity and subsequent osteoarthrosis of the joint. Clinicians concur that primary treatment should focus on preservation of the natural surface of the joint; however, there has not been a consensus on how best to accomplish this. While a number of therapeutic interventions have been reported, the efficacy has varied markedly and there have been few statistical comparisons. The purpose of the current study was to use statistical analysis to compare the results of two widely used procedures, vascularized fibular grafting (614 hips; 480 patients) and core decompression (ninety-eight hips; seventy-two patients), for the treatment of avascular necrosis. The patients were stratified according to age and the stage of disease, and a survival analysis was performed with total hip arthroplasty as the end point for failure. None of the eleven hips that had Ficat stage-I disease needed a total joint replacement after being treated with either regimen. Analysis of the hips that had stage-II disease revealed rates of survival, at fifty months, of 65 per cent (twenty-eight of forty-three hips) after core decompression and 89 per cent (ninety-nine of 111 hips) after vascularized fibular grafting. For the hips that had Ficat stage-III disease, the rates of survival at fifty months were 21 per cent (ten of forty-seven hips) after core decompression and 81 per cent (405 of 500 hips) after vascularized fibular grafting. Among the hips that had Ficat stage-II or III disease, the rate of eventual total joint arthroplasty after vascularized fibular grafting was significantly lower than that after core decompression (p < 0.0001). The results indicate that the increased morbidity associated with vascularized fibular grafting is justified by the associated delay in or prevention of articular collapse in hips that have stage-II or III disease.