The results of total shoulder arthroplasty and hemiarthroplasty in a similar patient population were compared in an effort to define more clearly the indications for resurfacing the glenoid. The results of 64 Neer hemiarthroplasties in 59 patients were compared with 146 Neer total shoulder arthroplasties in 134 patients in a retrospective review of the period between 1974 and 1986. The average follow-up period was 44 months (range, 24-124 months). Hemiarthroplasty and total shoulder arthroplasty produced similar results in terms of functional improvement. Pain relief, range of motion, and patient satisfaction were better with total shoulder arthroplasty than hemiarthroplasty in the rheumatoid population. Progressive glenoid loosening was found in 12% of total should arthroplasties but no correlation with pain relief or range of motion was noted. Total shoulder arthroplasty is recommended for patients with inflammatory arthropathies, and hemiarthroplasty is recommended for patients with osteoarthritis, avascular necrosis, and four-part fractures with preservation of glenoid congruity and absent synovitis.