INTRODUCTION: Patient-reported physical function is an established outcome domain in clinical studies in rheumatology. To overcome the limitations of the current generation of questionnaires, the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS®) project in the USA has developed calibrated item banks for measuring several domains of health status in people with a wide range of chronic diseases. The aim of this study was to translate and cross-culturally adapt the PROMIS physical function item bank to the Dutch language and to pretest it in a sample of patients with arthritis. METHODS: The items of the PROMIS physical function item bank were translated using rigorous forward-backward protocols and the translated version was subsequently cognitively pretested in a sample of Dutch patients with rheumatoid arthritis. RESULTS: Few issues were encountered in the forward-backward translation. Only 5 of the 124 items to be translated had to be rewritten because of culturally inappropriate content. Subsequent pretesting showed that overall, questions of the Dutch version were understood as they were intended, while only one item required rewriting. CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that the translated version of the PROMIS physical function item bank is semantically and conceptually equivalent to the original. Future work will be directed at creating a Dutch-Flemish final version of the item bank to be used in research with Dutch speaking populations.