This study was based on 192 patients treated surgically for 228 metastatic lesions of the long bones from 1986 through 1995. The survival rate was 0.3 at 1 year after surgery. The surgical treatment consisted of resection and reconstruction of the involved bone (18), intralesional curettage (133), or stabilization only (77). Reconstruction was achieved by an endoprosthesis in 54 cases, by an osteosynthetic device in 162, by cement only in 10. In two cases no reconstruction was performed. The local failure rate was 11% and the median time to failure was 8 months. Local failure was most frequent in patients with kidney cancer (24%) and in diaphyseal and distal femoral lesions (20%). Among 162 operations involving osteosynthetic devices, 22 (14%) were failures as compared with one of 54 (2%) endoprostheses. Sixty percent of the patients received preoperative or postoperative radiotherapy. Five of the six patients who had surgery for local tumor progression had not received radiotherapy. Eight of 10 nonunions and all five patients who developed a stress fracture had been treated with radiotherapy. It is concluded that endoprosthetic reconstructions are preferable to osteosynthetic devices. The skeletal complications associated with radiotherapy may be circumvented by the use of endoprostheses.