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We describe three prostheses with cemented titanium-alloy stems and Al2O3 ceramic femoral heads which had to be revised after a mean period of implantation of 78 months. In each case, the neck of the prosthesis had been so severely worn that the profile was elliptical rather than circular. There was severe metallosis of the periprosthetic tissues. Metal particles isolated from the tissues were approximately one nanometre in size and the ratios of titanium, aluminium and vanadium in the particles were the same as in the original alloy. Histologically, the high concentration of metal particles masked the presence of high-density polyethylene (HDP) debris, but again particles about one nanometre in size were isolated from the tissues. The severe necrobiosis and necrosis noted were consistent with other reports of the presence of extensive wear particles in periprosthetic tissues. Wear is presumed to have occurred as a result of mismatch between the shape or size of the taper cone and the femoral head, or to changes in the geometry of loading due to migration of the cup. To facilitate early intervention, patients with this design of prosthesis should be monitored radiologically.