In this study, the in vivo wear of highly cross-linked polyethylene (CLPE) cups against alumina ceramic femoral heads was evaluated by radiographic and retrieval analysis. The radiographic wear of six ethylene oxide gas-sterilized (i.e., non-cross-linked) conventional polyethylene (PE) cups with the mean follow-up of 20.9 years and 60 CLPE cups with the mean follow-up of 7.4 years was measured. The retrieved 16 PE cups with clinical use for mean 21.5 years and 10 CLPE cups with clinical use for mean 2.9 years was evaluated as a retrieval analysis. In the radiographic analysis, the linear wear of CLPE cups was significantly lower (99% reduction) compared to conventional polyethylene cups. The results of retrieval analyses for both cups were similar to those of radiographic analyses. Even when third-body wear occurred during clinical use, no surface damage was observed on the surface of ceramic femoral heads. The surface is not sensitive to third-body wear, and hence, the ceramic femoral head has a great advantage in terms of the wear of CLPE under third-body wear conditions. In conclusion, CLPE cups used with alumina ceramic femoral heads in total hip arthroplasty should have favorable wear resistance in several in vivo situations. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part B: Appl Biomater, 101B: 1594–1601, 2013.