. The transfusion requirements of 2233 patients who underwent total hip or knee joint arthroplasty procedures at nine Canadian hospitals during 1995–1996 were evaluated. Although 64% of patients were eligible for participation in an autologous blood donation (ABD) programme, only 8% predonated blood. Patients who were eligible for ABD were younger (62 years vs. 70 years) and had fewer medical illnesses (18% vs. 44%) than those who did not predonate. The rate of allogeneic transfusion was 9·0% (95% confidence interval 4·9–13·1%) in patients who predonated as compared with 24·1% (95% confidence interval 22·2–25·9%) in those who did not. Risk factors for the occurrence of an allogeneic transfusion were type of procedure (primary or revision hip arthroplasty), lower baseline haemoglobin, lower body weight, older age and presence of rheumatoid arthritis (P < 0·001). Only patients without risk factors were predicted to have a less than 10% risk of receiving an allogeneic transfusion. Use of preventive strategies was minimal. Two models designed to predict the occurrence of an allogeneic transfusion were evaluated. If allogeneic transfusion rates are to be reduced, eligible patients should be encouraged to participate in ABD programmes. For patients who are ineligible, other preventative strategies should be introduced.