Hemodiafiltration (HDF) is used sporadically for renal replacement therapy in Europe but not in the US. Characteristics and outcomes were compared for patients receiving HDF versus hemodialysis (HD) in five European countries in the Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study. The study followed 2165 patients from 1998 to 2001, stratified into four groups: low- and high-flux HD, and low- and high-efficiency HDF. Patient characteristics including age, sex, 14 comorbid conditions, and time on dialysis were compared between each group using multivariate logistic regression. Cox proportional hazards regression assessed adjusted differences in mortality risk. Prevalence of HDF ranged from 1.8% in Spain to 20.1% in Italy. Compared to low-flux HD, patients receiving low-efficiency HDF had significantly longer average duration of end-stage renal disease (7.0 versus 4.7 years), more history of cancer (15.4 versus 8.7%), and lower phosphorus (5.3 versus 5.6 mg/dl); patients receiving high-efficiency HDF had significantly more lung disease (15.5 versus 10.2%) and received a higher single-pool Kt/V (1.44 versus 1.35). High-efficiency HDF patients had lower crude mortality rates than low-flux HD patients. After adjustment, high-efficiency HDF patients had a significant 35% lower mortality risk than those receiving low-flux HD (relative risk=0.65, P=0.01). These observational results suggest that HDF may improve patient survival independently of its higher dialysis dose. Owing to possible selection bias, the potential benefits of HDF must be tested by controlled clinical trials before recommendations can be made for clinical practice.