Data from the Office of the Inspector General and the United Network for Organ Sharing suggested that black end-stage renal disease patients had unequal access to organ transplantation, in that they waited twice as long as white ESRD patients for a renal transplant. We hypothesized that preTx histocompatibility factors were more influential in determining how quickly an ESRD patient was transplanted than had been realized by either the Office of the Inspector General or UNOS. To test this hypothesis we compared the crossmatch reactivity of 378 white and 227 black ESRD patients awaiting a primary renal Tx against 100 consecutive cadaveric donors (80 white, 10 black, and 10 Mexican-American). A positive XM frequency of 16% (179 positive XM/1121 total XM) was observed when white ESRD patients were crossmatched against white donors. A comparable frequency of 21% (39/186) (+) XM was observed when white ESRD patients were crossmatched against black donors. Similarly, black ESRD patients crossmatched against black donors showed a 17% (20/115) (+) XM frequency. In contrast, a significantly higher (+) XM frequency of 43% (283/655) was observed when black ESRD patients were crossmatched against white donors (P less than 0.001). When black ESRD patients with a (+) preTx blood transfusion history were crossmatched against white donors, a 55% (241/438) (+) XM frequency was observed. This (+) XM frequency was 3.2 times greater than when black ESRD patients were matched against black donors (P less than 0.001). However, when untransfused black ESRD patients were matched against white donors only a 19% (42/217) (+) XM frequency was observed. Finally, preoperatively transfused black ESRD patients displayed a higher PRA of 47 +/- 12% vs. 27 +/- 10%, P less than 0.01, and a longer median waiting time to transplant of 329 vs. 181 days, P less than 0.01, than comparable white patients. The data suggest that presentization of blacks, following preTx blood transfusions from nonblack donors, predisposes black ESRD patients to present as immunologically inappropriate recipients for predominantly white donor allografts and results in their spending a longer time on renal transplant waiting lists.