The survival advantage of kidney transplantation extends to many high-risk ESRD patients; however, numerous factors ultimately determine which patients are evaluated and listed for the procedure. Broad goals of patient evaluation comprise identifying patients who will benefit from transplantation and excluding patients who might be placed at risk. There is limited data detailing whether current access limitations and screening strategies have achieved the goal of listing the most appropriate patients. The study estimated the life expectancy of adult patients in the United States prior to transplantation with ESRD onset from 1995 to 2003. Factors associated with transplant listing were examined based on patient prognosis after ESRD. Approximately one-third of patients listed for transplantation within 1 year of ESRD had </=5-year life expectancy on dialysis. In contrast, one-third of patients not listed had >5-year life expectancy. The number of patients not listed with 'good' prognosis was significantly higher than those listed with 'poor' prognosis (134 382 vs. 16 807, respectively). Age, race, gender, insurance coverage and body mass index (BMI) were associated with likelihood for listing with 'poor' prognosis and not listing with 'good' prognosis. Over the past decade, many ESRD patients viable for transplantation have not listed for transplantation while higher-risk patients have listed rapidly.