We retrospectively evaluated 233 incident patients (61% black, 27% white, and 12% Hispanic/Asian) to our peritoneal dialysis (PD) program from January 1987 to September 1997 to identify any possible racial differences in patient survival. Information collected included clinical features, comorbid conditions, nutritional status, and dialysis dose at initiation of dialysis. The average age was 52 +/- 16 (SD) years, and 49% were men. Diabetes mellitus was present in 41% of patients. Overall follow-up was 31 +/- 24 (median 26) months during which time 21% of patients underwent transplant, 29% of patients transferred to hemodialysis (HD), and 42% of patients died. The Cox proportional hazards analysis, based on intent-to-treat, identified age (RR: 1.03), race (RR: 2.35, white versus black), cardiac disease (RR: 1.97), and serum albumin (RR: 0. 44) to independently predict mortality. Further analysis was performed based on diabetic status, and the analysis identified age (RR: 1.06), race (RR: 2.45, white versus black), and peripheral vascular disease (RR: 2.88) as predictors of mortality in diabetic patients. In nondiabetic patients, age (RR: 1.03), race (RR: 2.24, white versus black), cardiac disease (RR: 2.48), cerebrovascular disease (RR: 3.17), and serum albumin (RR: 0.39) were significant predictors of mortality. The significance of race persisted even after adjusting patients transferring to hemodialysis. The adjusted patient survival at 1, 2, and 5 years was 94%, 87% and 53% for black patients, and 86%, 72%, and 23% for white patients. The adjusted patient survival in diabetics at 1, 2, and 5 years was 92%, 79%, and 37% for black patients, and 82%, 56%, and 9% for white patients. The adjusted patient survival in nondiabetics at 1, 2, and 5 years was 94%, 91%, and 63% for black patients, and 88%, 82%, and 35% for white patients. In conclusion, long-term patient survival is better for black patients than white patients in our peritoneal dialysis program. Peritoneal dialysis should be considered a viable dialytic option for black patients entering an end-stage renal disease program.