Background: The present study was designed to measure the longevity of knee replacements and to assess the determinants of revision knee replacements in order to enhance the potential for informed decision-making.Methods: Data on all hospitalizations for knee replacement that occurred in Ontario, Canada, between April 1, 1984, and March 31, 1991, were acquired. To calculate the rates of revision knee replacement, two algorithms were developed: one distinguished primary knee replacements from revision knee replacements, and the second linked revision knee replacements to primary knee replacements. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to assess survivorship (absence of a revision) for primary knee replacement. A proportional-hazards regression model was estimated to assess the role of independent variables on the survival of primary knee replacements.Results: During the period of the study, 7.0 percent (1301) of 18,530 knee replacements were classified as revisions. Significant differences were identified between hospitalizations for primary and revision knee replacements in terms of the patient and hospital characteristics. Patients who were more than fifty-five years old, lived in a rural area, or had a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis had a significantly (p < 0.05) longer duration before revision than did other patients. Primary knee replacements performed in a teaching or specialty hospital had a significantly (p < 0.05) shorter duration before revision than did those performed in a nonteaching hospital. The long-term rates of revision were uniformly low. Estimates of the proportion of knee replacements that would need to be revised within seven years ranged from a low of 4.3 percent, with use of the algorithm for the longest time to revision, to a high of 8.0 percent, with use of the algorithm for the shortest time to revision.Conclusions: Revision of a primary knee replacement was a rare event that depended on a patient's age, gender, and place of residence as well as on the hospital where the primary knee replacement was performed. Estimates of the rates of revision knee replacement after almost seven years ranged from a low of 4.3 percent to a high of 8.0 percent.