Methodologically sound measures of quality of life are required to judge accurately the impact of successful renal transplantation on patient well-being. The time trade-off (TTO) method is a reproducible and valid measure which we used to prospectively assess changes in the quality of life of 27 patients on maintenance dialysis who subsequently underwent renal transplantation. TTO scores approaching 0 signify a very poor quality of life, while scores approaching 1 represent perfect health. Of 98 dialysis patients who completed baseline TTO interviews, 31 consecutive patients subsequently received 28 cadaveric and 3 living related kidney transplants. Four of 31 patients did not complete a second TTO assessment, because of death in 2 patients and graft loss in 2 others. The remaining 27 patients completed a second TTO interview an average of 30.9 months following transplantation (range 1.5-52, 95% confidence interval [CI] 24.4-37.5) and formed the study cohort. At the time of study the mean serum creatinine for the cohort was 173 mumol/L (range 90-290, 95% CI 152-195 mumol/L). The employment rate rose 27% following transplantation (P = 0.10); but when males alone were analyzed, a significant increase of 38% (P = 0.048) was noted. During the dialysis period, the mean baseline TTO score was 0.41 (95% CI 0.33-0.49), confirming the observations of others. Following transplantation, the mean TTO score rose to 0.74 (95% CI 0.67-0.81), a difference that is statistically significant (P < 0.001). The mean increase in TTO score observed as a result of successful transplantation was 0.33 (95% CI 0.26-0.40). This magnitude of improvement was found in 20 of 27 patients (74%), whose TTO scores lay within or above the 95% CI (0.26-0.40) for the mean change in score of 0.33. One patient's score fell, while the remaining 6 patients had improvements in their TTO score which fell below the lower 95% CI value (0.26) for the mean change in score. We conclude that the 95% CI of 0.26-0.40 identifies a range in which clinically important improvements in quality of life will be found for the majority of patients receiving successful kidney transplants.