The selection of a prophylaxis regimen and its implementation have been influenced considerably by the decreased duration of hospital stays and the pressures of cost containment. The purpose of the present study was to determine the rate of symptomatic pulmonary embolism both before and after discharge, the number of days required to achieve an adequate level of anticoagulation, and the complications associated with the use of low-dose wafarin after total hip arthroplasty.Between 1987 and 1993, 1099 primary and revision total hip arthroplasties were performed in 940 patients who received low-dose warfarin for prophylaxis against thromboembolic disease. The average duration of prophylaxis was fifteen days (range, one to twenty-nine days). The target level of anticoagulation (as indicated by a prothrombin time of fourteen to seventeen seconds) was achieved an average of three days (range, one to sixteen days) after the operation. The level of anticoagulation was lower than the target range at the time of discharge after 257 total hip arthroplasties (23.4 per cent), and the target level was never achieved during the period of hospitalization after fifty-four such procedures (4.9 per cent).Twelve total hip arthroplasties were associated with a symptomatic pulmonary embolism; the over-all prevalence of this complication therefore was 1.1 per cent (95 per cent confidence interval, 0.4 to 1.9 per cent). Four pulmonary emboli were diagnosed before discharge and eight, after discharge. A fatal pulmonary embolism occurred after one procedure (0.1 per cent). Patients who had a history of symptomatic venous thromboembolic disease had a significantly increased risk of symptomatic pulmonary embolism after total hip arthroplasty (p = 0.001, Fisher exact test).A major bleeding episode occurred after thirty-two total hip arthroplasties (2.9 per cent). Patients who had a prothrombin time of more than seventeen seconds had a significantly increased risk of hematoma formation (p = 0.003, chi-square analysis). Prophylaxis with low-dose warfarin is safe and effective for the prevention of pulmonary embolism after total hip arthroplasty.