To assess the impact of quadruple immunosuppression in black and white recipients of cadaver kidney retransplants, we reviewed data from 178 second or subsequent renal allografts performed at our center between 1985 and 1991. Sixty-six black and 102 white recipients were divided into 3 groups: groups 1 and 2 consisted of patients with a negative complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC) T cell cross-match, receiving triple drug therapy (CsA-AZA-prednisone) and quadruple immunosuppressive therapy (quad therapy; Minnesota antilymphoblast globulin-CsA-AZA-prednisone), respectively. Group 3 patients also received quad therapy, but, in addition to a negative CDC cross-match, had a negative T cell flow cytometry cross-match (FCXM). Black and white patients in groups 1 and 2 experienced similar graft survival at 1 year, ranging from 47% to 63% (P = NS). In group 3, 1-year graft survival in whites, but not blacks, improved to 82%, with fewer grafts lost to immunologic causes in the first 90 days after transplant. A parametric analysis of potential risk factors identified a significant effect of better HLA-DR matching (P = 0.0005) on improved graft survival, with previous mismatched antigens (P = 0.04), female donor (P = 0.002), and short duration of previous graft (P = 0.05) as risk factors for graft loss. Race and immunosuppressive protocol did not affect graft survival. In group 3, blacks received fewer well-matched kidneys than whites (P = 0.05), which may have contributed to poorer outcomes for black recipients. Nine of 10 patients undergoing retransplantation with a negative CDC cross-match and a positive T cell FCXM suffered graft loss at a median of 26 days after transplant. Thus, quad therapy did not enhance graft survival for either black or white patients undergoing cadaveric retransplantation. Immunologic considerations, including HLA-DR matching and the FCXM, continue to exert a strong influence on outcomes in these high-risk recipients.