Background and purpose — The annual number of total knee arthroplasties (TKAs) has increased worldwide in recent years. To make projections regarding future needs for primaries and revisions, additional knowledge is important. We analyzed and compared the incidences among 4 Nordic countries Patients and methods — Using Nordic Arthroplasty Register Association (NARA) data from 4 countries, we analyzed differences between age and sex groups. We included patients over 30 years of age who were operated with TKA or unicompartmental knee arthroplasty (UKA) during the period 1997–2012. The negative binomial regression model was used to analyze changes in general trends and in sex and age groups. Results — The average annual increase in the incidence of TKA was statistically significant in all countries. The incidence of TKA was higher in women than in men in all 4 countries. It was highest in Finland in patients aged 65 years or more. At the end of the study period in 2012, Finland’s total incidence was double that of Norway, 1.3 times that of Sweden and 1.4 times that of Denmark. The incidence was lowest in the youngest age groups (< 65 years) in all 4 countries. The proportional increase in incidence was highest in patients who were younger than 65 years. Interpretation — The incidence of knee arthroplasty steadily increased in the 4 countries over the study period. The differences between the countries were considerable, with the highest incidence in Finland. Patients aged 65 years or more contributed to most of the total incidence of knee arthroplasty.