Existing data on the clinical outcome of maintenance dialysis for end-stage kidney disease focus mainly on the duration of life. We surveyed 18 dialysis centers to gain a broader overview of the current status of 2481 patients on dialysis, irrespective of the type or location of dialysis. The results suggest that 12 per cent of dialysis patients are diabetics and that 53 per cent are 50 years of age or older. There was considerable variation among centers in the degree of rehabilitation; nevertheless, only 60 per cent of the nondiabetic patients and 23 per cent of the diabetic patients were capable of a level of physical activity beyond that of caring for themselves. Only one quarter of the patients worked outside the home, whereas one third worked at home. These results suggest that a larger proportion of dialysis patients than previously suspected are severely debilitated. There is a need for improved data on the quality and length of life of patients on maintenance dialysis.