The measurement of bone mineral density in defined areas around metal implants has improved with the development of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. We used this technique to compare the bone mineral density adjacent to metal cementless femoral implants with that of identical regions of bone in normal proximal femora. We studied the anteroposterior views only of 72 femora which contained total hip implants and 34 non-operated femora. We compared the regional bone mineral density of bone adjacent to proximally porous-coated and distally porous-coated implants of one design, to measure the relative differences in the remodelling changes induced by different amounts of porous coating. We also measured differences in bone density with time and with variations in implant size (and therefore stiffness). The greatest decrease in bone mineral density (34.8%) occurred in the most proximal 1 cm of the medial femoral cortex around relatively stiff, extensively porous-coated implants. The next most severe decrease (20% to 25%) was in the next most proximal 6 cm of the medial femoral cortex. Small, progressive decreases in bone mineral density continued for five to seven years after implantation.