Because of rationing of the limited pool of health care resources, access to total knee arthroplasty (TKA) is limited, but investigation of variables that predict complications, length of hospital stay, cost and outcomes of TKA may allow us to optimize the available resources. The objective of this study was to examine the effect of various factors on complication rates after TKA in patients managed in Ontario. Patients who had undergone an elective TKA between 1993 and 1996, as captured in the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) database, formed the study cohort. The CIHI dataset was used to obtain information regarding in-hospital complications, hospital length of stay, revision rates, infection rates and mortality. Generalized estimating linear or logistic regression equations were used to model outcomes as a function of age, gender, comorbidity, diagnosis and provider volume. During the study period, 14 352 patients in Ontario underwent TKA. Mortality at 3 months was associated with patient age, gender and comorbidity. There was no association between provider volume and mortality or the infection rate. Higher revision rates at 1 and 3 years were significantly associated with lower patient age and low hospital volume. Hospitals with fewer than 48 TKA procedures were done per year (<40th percentile) had 2.2 fold greater 1-year revision rates than hospitals performing more than 113 TKAs annually (>80th percentile). Complications during admission were associated with increased patient age and comorbidity, and higher hospital volume. Longer hospital stay was associated with female gender, increasing patient comorbidity and age, and lower provider volume. Surgeons who performed fewer than 14 TKAs annually (<40th percentile) kept patients in hospital an average of 1.4 days longer than surgeons performing more than 42 TKAs annually (>80th percentile). Patient variables significantly affect the rate of complications. Age, sex and comorbidity were significant predictors of complications, length of hospital stay and mortality after TKA. Although low surgeon volume was related to longer hospital stay, there was no association between surgeon volume and complication rates. The increased early revision rate for low-volume hospitals demand further study.