In Scotland, the number of primary total knee replacements performed annually has been increasing steadily. The price of the implant is fixed but the length of hospital stay is variable. We prospectively investigated all patients who underwent primary unilateral total knee replacement in the Scottish region of Fife, between December 1994 and February 2007 and assessed their recorded pre-operative details. The data were analysed using univariate and multiple linear regression statistical analysis. Data on the length of stay were available from a total of 2106 unilateral total knee replacements. The median length of hospital stay was eight days. The significant pre-operative risk factors for an increased length of stay were the year of admission, details of the consultant looking after the patient, the stair score, the walking-aid score and age. Awareness of the pre-operative factors which increase the length of hospital stay may provide the opportunity to influence them favourably and to reduce the time in hospital and the associated costs of unilateral total knee replacement.