The organ shortage has led to extend the procurement to kidneys from 'marginal' donors. As a result, an increasing number of kidneys are discarded, but an extended analysis of the validity of the clinical decision to accept or decline a marginal graft remains to be determined. We have retrospectively analyzed the outcome of 170 kidney transplantations, performed in eight renal transplantation centers between 1992 and 1998. Study group included transplantation from donors accepted after refusal for poor donor or graft quality by at least two centers. Control group included 170 paired recipients from kidneys unanimously accepted by all centers. Main causes of kidney refusal included impaired donor hemodynamics (28%), abnormal pre-harvesting serum creatinine (22%), advanced age in donors (15%), and donor atheroma (14%). The 5-year patient survival (88.2% in the study group and 88.9% in controls) and graft survival (70.4% in the study group and 76.7% in controls, P=0.129) were not significantly different. Delayed graft function occurred significantly more often in the study group patients than in controls patients (63 vs 32%, P<0.0001). Primary non-functioning kidneys were significantly more frequently observed in study patients than in controls (7.7 vs 1.8%, P=0.01). Mean creatinine clearance was significantly lower in the study group patients compared with controls during the post-transplant course. Our results suggest that these initially discarded kidneys provide satisfactory survival rates despite their impaired early functional recovery and poorer long-term renal function, and therefore might be considered acceptable for transplantation in the context of organ shortage.