The early diagnosis of aseptic loosening of a total hip replacement by plain radiography, scintigraphy and arthrography has been shown to be unreliable. It has been suggested that it may be possible to distinguish between a secure and a loose prosthesis using a vibration technique. We have assessed the use of this technique in vitro using models of early and late loosening. Late loosening with an unstable prosthesis can be reliably detected by vibration analysis, but this method was shown to have a very poor diagnostic sensitivity in early loosening when there is no obvious prosthetic instability.