We report the results of a double-blind, randomised trial of venous thrombosis (VT) prevention in 117 patients having elective hip replacement where low dose heparin alone (5,000 IU sodium heparin given subcutaneously [sc] 8 hourly until the seventh postoperative day) was compared with low dose heparin plus dihydroergotamine (DHE; 0.5 mg, given 8 hourly by sc injection). The trial end point consisted of VT discovered through bilateral ascending venography done routinely on the seventh postoperative day. VT developed in 34% of patients given heparin/DHE (95% confidence interval = 22% - 47%) compared with 24% in those given low dose heparin alone (95% confidence interval = 14% - 37%; p = 0.34), difference = 10% (95% confidence interval = -7% to +26%). Corresponding figures for the incidence of proximal (above-knee) thrombosis were 17% and 14% (95% confidence intervals = 8% - 29% and 6% - 25% respectively). These results are discussed in the context of a detailed overview of published evidence concerning VT prevention with heparin/DHE after hip replacement and we conclude it is unlikely that heparin/DHE is markedly superior to low dose heparin alone in this clinical setting.