This short review argues for the importance of evidence-based medicine in the evolution of improved dialysis care. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has supported two major randomized clinical trials in dialysis, the National Cooperative Dialysis Study (NCDS), completed in 1981, and the Hemodialysis (HEMO) study, completed in 2002, and supports a major body of ongoing observational research through the U.S. Renal Data System (USRDS). The main results from the two randomized clinical trials and their implications for clinical practice and subsequent research are discussed here. The importance of observational research in the formulation of hypotheses and improvement of quality of care is examined. A brief historical perspective is provided on the critical examination of dialysis care in the late 1980s that occurred following completion of the NCDS. Finally, the rationale for continued investment in dialysis research and the plans of NIDDK to launch studies of more intensive dialysis regimens are discussed.